Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yes, You Have a Right to Be a Bigot

In March 2015, a controversy roiled in Indiana over passage of the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That divisive controversy is the latest fruit of a terrible legal precedent established during the Civil Rights era -- which was in turn based on terrible confusion and misunderstanding of the nature of "rights."

Protestors of the Indiana law (which in fact mirrors the federal RFRA law and similar laws in 30 states) claim that, by protecting the rights of (say) Christian business owners not to serve or deal with (say) gays, the RFRA violates the "right" of the latter to be served by these private businesses, without discrimination.

But does any such "right" exist? Let me attempt to untangle this mess.

Our individual rights have a moral basis: They are based on the moral premise that every individual is an end in himself -- not a means to the ends of others. Rights are moral principles established to institutionalize that premise as the basis for peaceful social relationships. Individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Which brings us to the role of government. The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is "to secure these rights" to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government is established to protect these rights of individuals from acts of force, fraud, and coercion by others. And to enforce those protections of rights, government may use force and coercion only in retaliation against those who violate the rights of others.

In other words: Since government is an agency meant to protect the rights of all, and because it is funded by all, it therefore must afford equal legal protection to all. As an impartial umpire and protector, it cannot "play favorites" in its actions without operating unjustly.

To this end, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did some very good things. In the Act, the Titles (or sections) numbered I, III-VI, VIII, and IX were aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and similar traits by government bodies, officials, and laws. For many decades before passage of the Act, various government bodies did operate unfairly and prejudicially, especially against blacks. Such officially sanctioned bigotry and bias was a moral and legal outrage, and it needed to be put to an end. So, these particular sections of the Civil Rights Act are rightly celebrated as a boon for the cause of individual rights.

However, Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act took matters a step too far. They banned owners of private property from exercising their own individual rights of freedom of association on and with that property. In other words, those sections violated an individual's right to choose his own associations, and on his own property, for whatever reasons (rational or irrational). 

To repeat: The basic premise underlying and justifying government and law is that each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. But that very premise -- which demands that government act neutrally and impartially toward all -- also protects the right of individuals in the private sector to associate freely with whomever they wish, for whatever reason they wish. Those reasons don't have to be admirable. Let me be clear: I think that discrimination based solely on race or sexual orientation is disgraceful and stupid. However, it is an individual right to be a fool and a bigot.

To compel, by law, some legally specified people to associate with other legally specified people means that...

(1) the first group are not being treated as ends in themselves, but are being forced into the role of being the servants of others;

(2) the government -- which is supposed to be impartial -- is favoring the second designated group at the expense of the first; and

(3) the rights of individuals to peacefully use their private property as they see fit are to be subordinated to collective social purposes.

Ironically, (1) imposes "involuntary servitude" -- exactly what the 13h Amendment made illegal. From Wikipedia: "Involuntary servitude is a United States legal and constitutional term for a person laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion other than the worker's financial needs." To compel a business owner to serve someone not of his free choosing meets the very definition of "involuntary servitude." That may include compelling (say) a Christian baker, who does not believe in "gay marriage," to provide pastries at a gay wedding reception. If you think that is okay, then what would you say if a white racist or -- even worse!!! -- a RICH CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN REPUBLICAN (say, Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin) demanded, under the same "non-discrimination" laws, that a liberal, Democratic, gay, female, African-American baker provide pastries for his or her daughter's wedding?

Ironically too, in the name of "non-discrimination," (2) lets the government coercively discriminate on behalf of some people over others in what otherwise would be private, voluntary relationships.

And (3) represents a de facto nationalization of private businesses. Ownership, by definition, means the right to freely and peacefully use and dispose of property as the property holder sees fit. But under those two titles of the Civil Rights Act, property is no longer to serve the individual ends determined by its owner; instead, it is now to serve the collective ends of his customers, by governmental decree. The businessperson's private property rights are thus subordinated to collective ends, just as the businessperson himself or herself is subjected to involuntary servitude on behalf of customers.

I said above that "individual rights prohibit one person from living at the expense of someone else by means of force, fraud, or coercion." To use force and coercion in order to compel the owners of private property to deal with or serve you, is a direct violation of the owner's individual rights.

The fact that these violations of rights are rationalized because they are "for a good cause" is irrelevant. Just as the First Amendment protects the free speech of individuals, even if we despise  what they say, so too does the rest of the Bill of Rights protect the freedom of business owners to hire or serve whomever they wish, even if we despise their specific hiring choices or service policies. The way to deal with bigots, in either case, is through boycott and ridicule -- which is perfectly within the rights of any protester.

But now, the law has been stood on its head: It has become a tool to discriminate against and violate the individual rights of people whom we don't like . . . perversely, in the name of "protecting rights" and "non-discrimination."

As I write, Republicans such Governor Mike Pence of Indiana are back-pedaling frantically, trying to rewrite Religious Freedom Restoration Acts so as to prohibit private acts of "discrimination." But in doing so, they are caving in to those who are using such demands to destroy what little is left of individual and property rights. And they are thus joining the mobs that treat individuals as nationalized means to social ends, and no longer as moral ends in themselves.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BAD DEEDS Wins CLFA Book of the Year 2014

I am delighted to announce that my second Dylan Hunter thriller, BAD DEEDS, just won the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “Book of the Year 2014 Award.”

Given the quality of the finalists — books by prominent, bestselling authors Larry Correia, Sarah A. Hoyt, and Mackey Chandler — I sincerely didn’t think my thriller stood a chance of winning. But thanks to Dylan’s devoted fans, the book won the final vote.

I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to all of you who have made my stories and characters a part of your lives. I am touched and grateful to you for your loyal support, and my special appreciation goes to those of you who voted for BAD DEEDS. Thanks to you, this award will bring the book and its unique vigilante hero a lot more attention — and that is why I entered it in the competition in the first place.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Narcissist and The Narrative

He is, above all, the consummate narcissist. 

Consider: By his own admission, he spent most of his youth chasing girls, in a self-indulgent marijuana haze. In school, he used his long-honed tactics of glib, manipulative, arrogant "charm" to coast through, getting grades that, to this day, he has refused to release to the public. He learned to sweet-talk his way through life, also learning early on that white liberals were only too eager to serve as slavish Enablers for a bright, handsome black kid who made them feel noble about themselves.

Along the way, he learned how to con people with narratives, with stories that embodied the liberals' own fantasies and self-flattering aspirations. His biggest narrative con was about himself: He concocted a black kid's Cinderella story. Liberals just ate that up. With precious little effort on his own part, they lined up to elevate him up each political rung of his career ladder, pushing him toward the Narcissist's ultimate objective. He helped mainly by seeking out positions that kept him in the public eye, in front of cheering crowds. He became very, very adept in front of crowds, practicing and refining his narratives till they were polished. Though he could be a slick orator, he added a bit of informal, boyish, countrified charm, strategically dropping "g's" at the ends of words -- you know, so that he'd be "talkin' about changin' the country." He did that only occasionally: Like most of his studied tactics, he could turn these on and off like a faucet, as needed.

In each political position he held along the way, he never actually bothered to do the job. He never left behind any legislative footprints, any actual accomplishment. To him, winning the political position was the accomplishment: It was an end in itself -- an affirmation in his mind that he was loved, noticed, and approved of by thousands. But it was never enough: He wanted that universal affirmation from millions. So, he never stayed more than a few years in any political job. They were only stepping stones to his ultimate objective.

His big break was when throngs of white liberals put the skinny kid from Chicago on stage at the Democratic convention in 2004. He had just won his Senate race, and was now the new black poster boy for white liberals. I saw that speech on TV. I saw how the white liberal crowd responded and ate it up. Do you know something? At that instant, I knew. And I began to work a Barack Obama character into the storyline of the original Dylan Hunter novel that I was then planning, as the first black man to run for the White House. Yes, I knew even then that that was exactly what he was after, and where this adoring crowd of liberals was propelling him.

At that time, his only qualifications for the White House were a couple of faux "memoirs" that advanced his phony, self-inflated biographical Narrative. That. Was. IT. The rest of his resume? A Harvard law student whose grades nobody ever talked about. A figurehead occupant of the position of "Editor" of the "Harvard Law Review," where he never wrote and contributed a single article himself. A Chicago community agitator. A part-time, adjunct college instructor. An ambitious schmoozer and schemer who ingratiated himself into the Chicago political machine. A state representative who, backed by the Machine, used hardball tactics to get elected -- then never did a damned thing in office except run for his next position. Ditto as a one-term occupant of the U.S. Senate while he immediately began running for the White House.

Then, as a candidate whose vacuous political speeches matched his resume: empty odes to "hope" and "change," whatever those things were supposed to be. Barack had learned that all you needed were moral-political narratives, built on vague generalizations, and a personal biographical Narrative, built on the univerally appealing Cinderella story. People would want to believe in those stories; so they would grant any candidate embodying their mythology a free pass from close, critical scrutiny. Nobody would bother to notice that he was just an empty suit: They would fill that empty suit themselves, with a Somebody of their own imagination and aspirations -- all to make them feel good about themselves.

And so The Narcissist was elevated to become President -- any narcissist's ultimate symbol of self-congratulation and universal adulation. That was the goal. That was the objective. He had reached it. Not for any specific things he could actually accomplish; oh, sure, he had a leftist wish list of goals, and he surrounded himself with other hard leftists. But the real pleasure was the ability to wander the grand rooms of the White House; to be saluted getting on and off Marine One and Air Force One; to be able to jet anywhere on the taxpayers' tab; to ride around Washington in The Beast, surrounded by a motorcade of Secret Service agents; to put his feet up on the historic desk in the Oval Office (there are photos of him doing this); but mostly to preen in public before nests of cameras and thickets of microphones, soaking in the attention.

The actual work of the job bores him. Actual work always bored him. He chafes at hanging around in the White House. Sure, it's fun to wander into the Situation Room and be surrounded by nervous generals and fawning lackeys, and to be visited by anxious corporate cronies looking to kiss his ring and get favors, and to chum around with all the Hollywood and sports celebs lining up to entertain him in the evening. But the work is BORING. He just can't wait to get out of the place and away from that damned desk. So, at every occasion, he orders his staff to rev up The Beast, Marine One, and then Air Force One, and get him off to some exotic vacation spot, where he can hang out with his buds on some lush green golf course.

The Consummate Narcissist. That's who America elected -- twice. They still don't understand how they could have been fooled so badly. But Barack understands. He's like another handsome black celebrity narcissist of an earlier generation: O.J. Simpson. Everyone loved The Juice, too, for exactly the same reasons. Why, the two narcissists are virtually interchangeable.

In the end, Barack Obama is merely O.J. Simpson, with intellectual pretentions...and without the knife.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How "The Wizard of Oz" Refutes the Liberal Narrative

I have been pondering for several months how this classic childhood film presents a remarkable metaphor for the failure of the liberal/progressive/statist view of government. Consider the plot:

A group of humble individuals finds their lives disrupted by frightening events beyond their control. Their entire world is literally turned upside-down, and they find themselves in strange, scary new circumstances. Now, they fear they are out of control of their lives, and they are terribly anxious about their future.

One victim of the disaster seeks a return to her normal world. Another believes he hasn't the courage to meet the fearful challenges ahead. A third fears he lacks compassion and dedication. Yet another wonders whether he has the brains to survive on his own.

From a bunch of "little people," they are told about a wondrous far-off city, where a great and powerful wizard will provide them everything they seek and need -- merely by magical decree. Desperate, they embark upon a difficult pilgrimage to that city of power and favors, which is topped by a towering monument. There, acting like craven beggars, they visit and supplicate themselves before the all-powerful wizard, pleading for his aid. And he promises to fulfill their heart's desires.

But there is a catch. The supplicants are told that first they must pay a price for his help: They must agree to go out and do the wizard's bidding, undergoing a host of ordeals on his behalf. The price of his help is servility. Intimidated, they agree to do so. They perform the tasks he has ordered, suffering terribly, but mastering every challenge along the way. 

At last, they return in triumph and insist that the wizard keep his end of the bargain. But he balks and refuses, accusing them of insolence and improper deference to one of his exalted station.

Suddenly, an innocent young pup pulls back the curtain. The Great and Powerful Wizard is revealed to be nothing more than a pathetic old con man: an incompetent fake, who had achieved his power and status over the little people only through his ability to spin glowing Narratives that promised them whatever they wanted . . . and told them whatever they wanted to hear.

In the end, the adventurers come to a shocking realization. Each discovers that, all along, he or she already possessed all the brains, heart, and courage to live happy lives, to produce whatever they needed, and to accomplish great things. They learn that, all along, they could have stood self-reliantly on their own, solving their individual problems creatively and productively, without paying endless tribute to, or accepting endless abuse from, any fraudulent, conniving, self-appointed "wizards" living parasitical lives of luxury in some distant center of power . . . .


All right, folks: Having now revealed "The Wizard of Oz" as a highly subversive Narrative of individualism, one that brilliantly mocks and fatally skewers the "progressive" Narrative, I wonder how long it will be before the Regime tries to ban it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Republican Crack-Up -- and the Path Forward

It is all transpiring as I have foreseen.

Not only has the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress completely capitulated to the Democrats, on every point, in crafting the October 2013 "budget agreement" (i.e., signing terms of unilateral Republican surrender); in doing so, the GOP also has signaled that it will not even try to exercise any of its lawful leverage to oppose any Democratic initiative in the future. On any such occasion, both sides now know that the Democrats inevitably will engineer some new "crisis"; that they and their media lapdogs will blame it on the Republicans; and that the Republicans -- terrified about being unpopular -- will cave.

Thus, what I years ago labeled the policy of "anticipatory capitulation" is now rooted in the Republican DNA. Looking down the road, they will notice and anticipate any potential confrontation in which they will be subjected to criticism . . . and terrified over that prospect, they will surrender preemptively. They already are doing this on the immigration issue, for example: working feverishly behind the scenes to engineer legislation that essentially anticipates and preemptively ratifies everything that the Democrats have ever dreamed of enacting (in other words, a new "Dream Act").

Conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh say they are "mystified" (his word) by how and why the GOP could so completely implode as any kind of alternative (let alone "opposition party") to the Democrats. Readers here know my answer:

He who shapes the Narrative, wins.

The Democrats have a Narrative. It is built on a primitive philosophical view of social relationships: a world of zero-sum tribalism, where all wealth is "social" and fixed in quantity; where it is not the product of individuals ("You didn't build that!"), but of the tribe, and thus tribally owned; where anyone's gain therefore comes only at the expense of someone else's loss; and thus where a benevolent Ruling Class elite must decide "fair" distributions of tribal wealth among all the tribal members. This atavistic worldview goes back to the dark days when people lived in caves; ironically, today it is labeled "progressive."

The Republicans, by contrast, have no Narrative. That's because they long ago abandoned the only plausible philosophical basis for a counter-Narrative to that of the Democrats: a worldview of creative, self-responsible individualism. In that worldview, human productivity means that wealth is not limited or fixed in quantity; it is produced by and therefore the property of individuals, not the tribe; social relationships therefore are not a zero-sum proposition, where some people gain at the expense of others: instead, they are "win-win," because productive people trade rather than take; and finally, no Ruling Class elite is wanted or needed, because it is both parasitical and dictatorial.

This modern, individualist worldview arose from the Enlightenment Era, and it represented a revolutionary advance over primitive tribalism. It is the worldview upon which Republicans could have fashioned a host of coherent, compelling, inspiring narratives. But it is a worldview that the party's liberal RINOs reject on principle, and that its Establishment pragmatists never understood.

The only serious repository for this individualist worldview in contemporary politics lies in one wing of the Republican Party: a loose, informal coalition of those labeled "constitutional conservatives," "libertarian populists," and "Tea Partiers." In the Senate, this wing comprises only a minority of the Republican caucus, which is still dominated by liberal RINOs (think John McCain) and pragmatic Establishment careerists (think Mitch McConnell). In the House, the conservative/libertarian/Tea Party wing actually constitutes a majority of the Republican caucus. However, among all House members, they constitute a numerical minority. That's because there are just enough turncoat RINOs and Establishment types (including Boehner and the leadership) to give Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats a de facto voting majority on serious issues.

That explains what is happening today (October 16, 2013) in the pivotal congressional budget vote, which ratifies not just everything that the Democrats wanted, but even ObamaCare funding.

First, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership "negotiated" terms of total and unconditional surrender to Harry Reid and the Democrats, rolling over the GOP "Tea Party" minority led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Then, in the House, the Republican Establishment leader, John Boehner, agreed to let the Senate bill come to the floor for a straight vote (one he could have blocked procedurally). Even though the majority of House Republicans, who are principled Tea Partiers and constitutional conservatives, remain utterly opposed to this bill and will vote a resounding no, there are just enough RINOs and Establishment "moderates" who will join Pelosi and the Dems to pass the bill there, too.

And so, the Republican leadership in both houses has set in cement the existing membership roles within the Bipartisan Ruling Class: The collectivist Democrats will remain in charge, setting the progressive agenda as the Evil Party, while the careerist Republicans will act reliably as their passive rubber stamp, ratifying the progressive agenda as the Enabler Party.

Where does this leave things?

Right now, there is a concerted bipartisan effort to use Saul Alinsky tactics to destroy what I'll call the "Principled Individualist Wing" of the Republican Party: the constitutional conservatives, libertarian populists, and Tea Partiers. The Democratic left and the GOP's RINO/Establishment types will try to isolate, freeze, personalize, and demonize this Principled Individualist Wing -- starting, of course, with Ted Cruz, the individual they most fear, and therefore must destroy. It's already begun, but watch this effort ramp up in coming months.

My recommendations now?

First, all-out war within the GOP against the RINOs and the Establishment. After all, that war has already been declared against Principled Individualists by the RINOs; so there is no point in pretending that the two factions can ever peacefully co-exist within the same party. They disagree in principle; no compromise of principles is logically possible. One or the other faction must go.

In the House, the Principled Individualist Wing has already achieved a numerical advantage within the GOP caucus. But they have not yet moved to seize the reins of party leadership there. Until they do, they should realize that when push comes to shove, Boehner/Cantor/McCarthy will always cave and sell them out at the last minute, as they did today, by letting the Senate budget bill come to the floor. That was a key decision; Boehner had the power to reject it; but the leadership team caved. In doing so, they proved, once and for all, that they ultimately are craven careerists, not principled leaders; that they are resigned to being de facto enablers of the Democrats; and that they are laughable as articulate advocates of any alternative Narrative.

In the Senate, the Principled Individualist Wing is a smaller but growing minority. Within the past two years they have established a strong beachhead within that body. Their members, though few, are young, superlatively articulate, and utterly intransigent -- in contrast to the old, mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed Establishment dinosaurs, who won't be around much longer. The goal here must be to hasten their departure, to knock off the worst of the Establishment and RINO population and replace them during upcoming primaries so as to achieve Individualist dominance within the Senate GOP caucus.

As that happens, the most important thing that must occur within the Republican Party is that its Principled Individualists learn how to craft NARRATIVES. First, an overarching individualist "meta-Narrative," telling the compelling, inspiring, positive vision of individual productive achievement and personal fulfillment under liberty. Second, drawing upon that meta-Narrative, specific "narratives" for specific issues and circumstances. 

Principled Individualists must stop communicating to the public at large in terms of wonkish abstractions and eye-glazing political-economic jargon. Instead, they must personalize and dramatize the issues, using the stories of real people who are either examples of heroic individualism, or victims of progressive oppression.

At a time when millions and millions of Americans are being individually victimized by leftist policies, who is telling their stories? Where are their champions? Why aren't they brought to appear, one after the other, before the cameras at congressional hearings? Why don't Principled Individualist politicians stand beside them at rallies, create photo-ops with them before local media, tell their stories again and again in their speeches? Where are the victims of ObamaCare, for example? Why do GOP congressmen ever bother to show up at a news conference without a host of them serving as their backdrop -- without telling their stories, or, better yet, letting them tell their own?

For many decades, the Democrats have become masters of the technique of turning victimization into political theater, in order to win public emotional sympathy. They have exploited such emotional sympathy to steamroller over every logical, theoretical, and empirical argument . . . they have none of the latter on their side. By contrast, while having all of those latter things on their side, why don't Principled Individualists use them as the basis for compelling, dramatic, sympathetic narratives? If they did that, then their arguments -- both logical and emotional -- would gain the force of a tidal wave . . . as Ronald Reagan knew and demonstrated.

This, I believe, is the path forward for Principled Individualists, whether within the Republican Party or out here in Flyover Country. 

Regarding the latter: I counsel you not to wait for some Man on a White Horse to ride into Washington as your champion. You have the power and intelligence to tell persuasive personal stories, drawing upon and applying to your own lives, families, friends, and circumstances. You can tell personal stories that embody and romanticize the aspirational elements of the American dream -- and that also dramatize and demonstrate the personal costs, tragedies, and victimizations generated by progressive statism.

If each of us does that, in his or her own life, then sad days like today in Washington will soon become fewer and less dispiriting. And eventually, we will be able to wake up each morning actually looking forward to watching a TV news program.

Take heart. We're only just beginning.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Obama, Holder, and the New McCarthyism

In the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the Attorney General of the United States, through his underlings at the Department of "Justice," is appealing to the general public to supply the federal government with "tips," i.e., dirt, on a private citizen--and is now enlisting private political gangs to help them in this witch hunt:
Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – who earlier in the day joined calls for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, said that later in the afternoon, she joined a U.S. Department of Justice conference call to discuss the prospects.

“They were calling on us to actively refer anyone who had any information," that might build a case against Zimmerman for either a civil rights violation or a hate crime, Arnwine said. "They said they would very aggressively investigate this case."

Arnwine said the call was convened at about 3:30 p.m. by Tom Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, and included representatives from the FBI, and several federal prosecutors, she said. DOJ officials also said they would open a public email address so people could send in tips on the case....[I refuse to publish that email address here.]

In addition to Arnwine’s group, Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Laura Murphy, Washington Chapter head of the ACLU; and several national, Florida and Sanford-based 'human relations' groups participated, Arnwine said.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last straw.

America is a nation where every individual is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, under the rule of law. For purely political reasons, George Zimmerman was dragged into court on flimsy evidence, but then acquitted by a jury of any crime.

But that is not enough for the gangsters of this regime. They won't let a little thing like the verdict of a jury be the last word.

So the highest law enforcement official of the United States, acting at the behest of his boss in the Oval Office, is now leading a full-blown witch hunt about the private life and views of an individual citizen--and enlisting a gang of private political cronies and allies to assist them, in order to railroad that same individual behind bars for the "crime" of--are you ready?--"hate."

Let's get this straight. Hatred is an attitude...a frame of mind...an emotion based on certain ideas. Hate may or may not be justified, depending on the circumstances. A victim of a heinous crime or a despotic regime, for example, may be fully justified for feeling hatred. It would be a just, though certainly not pleasant, emotional response to mistreatment.

But to convict a person of "hate crimes" is a variation of George Orwell's totalitarian concept in 1984 of thought crimes: of punishing an individual, not for criminal actions, but for merely holding ideas and emotions that are offensive to the political regime in power.

In short, the Attorney General and his boss have just declared open war on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as on the privacy protections afforded by the Fifth Amendment. Moreover, they are encouraging a witch hunt by private citizens against a fellow private citizen: encouraging people to go spying and reporting to the government about a political target.

Before anyone replies that a "hate crime" must also be an actual crime, and that the "hate" is only its motive, let me point out that in Zimmerman's case, he was exonerated of any underlying crime which could be motivated by "hate," or by anything else. Thus, persecuting Zimmerman for an alleged "hate crime," when no crime exists, can only mean that he is being targeted for his presumed motive alone. In other words, for a "Thought Crime," a la Orwell's 1984.

Please forget the name George Zimmerman for a moment, and whatever your opinion of the man may be. Consider only the principles at stake. To do that, put yourself in the shoes of such a targeted individual.

How would you feel if you became the target of the enormously powerful federal government, which insisted on continuing to persecute you for something, anything, such as your thoughts and emotions, even after you were exonerated in a court of law of the alleged crimes?

How would you feel if hundreds of armed apparatchiks from the FBI and other police agencies were dispatched after the trial to continue to hound you, under orders of the chief law officer of the land?

How would you feel if he, acting under orders of his boss in the White House, dispatched investigators around your neighborhood, digging into your past, perhaps looking into your emails and social media (there are precedents), soliciting any idle rumors and unprovable claims about your attitudes, ideas, and temperament from everyone you know now or had ever known; from old lovers or spouses who might bear some grudge against you; from any past employer you ever argued with or who may have fired you; from any casual acquaintance who might want his 15 minutes of celebrity fame on an MSNBC show hosted by the likes of Al Sharpton, or perhaps in exchange for the promise of some government reward...at your expense?

My friends, this is goon squad stuff, right out of the playbooks of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, and North Korea. In a nation supposed to be distinguished from such dictatorships by our Bill of Rights, the contemptible Obama Regime is establishing the horrifying precedent of targeting enemies, then soliciting neighbors to spy and report on them.

And this sickening witch hunt is being led by the same "liberals" who endlessly, self-righteously preach against the dangers of "McCarthyism." Perhaps the most grotesque symbol of hypocrisy is the fact that one of the groups participating in this witch hunt is the Washington chapter of the ACLU--the self-proclaimed "liberal" champion of the Bill of Rights.

I have said that there is no bottom to the depths to which this power-lusting group of sanctimonious gangsters won't sink. Every day they prove me right by descending to yet a lower rung. But this is the lowest yet...and the most dangerous.

The Obama Regime is loaded with nothing but wannabe despots, starting right at the top. We have already seen how far these people are willing to go, with the scandals of the IRS, EPA, SEC, NSA, and many other agencies. They have zero respect for the rule of law and contempt for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which they regard rightly as impediments to their quest for boundless, unending power over the rest of us.

If we continue to perpetuate them in office after the next election, we as a nation deserve the complete destruction and chaos toward which we are rapidly sinking.

Meanwhile, though, we need to SPEAK UP against this outrageous new step toward totalitarianism. Please link to this message on your social media, and to the Orlando Sentinel report. This ugly precedent must be stopped dead in its tracks, now...or you and I will not recognize this nation in another year.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

So, You Wanted Your Government to Become Santa Claus?

In view of the shocking, scary revelations about invasions of privacy and abuses of power by the IRS, NSA, FBI, EPA, Department of Justice, and other government agencies: It occurs to me that this is exactly what people get when they want government to become Santa Claus:

"He sees you when you're sleeping. 

"He knows when you're awake. 
"He knows if you've been bad or good, 
"So be good for goodness sake. 
"You better watch out..."


Be careful what you wish for, people.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Federal Snoopervisers on My Doorstep

The U.S. Census Bureau -- in the person of Virginia, a mild-mannered lady with an official government I.D. hanging around her neck -- showed up on my doorstep yesterday. Lucky me: I have been statistically selected to "participate" in an "interview" known as the American Community Survey.

"There is a great need for information about the types of homes in whic
h people live and the characteristics of these homes," says the postcard that Virginia left with me. The interrogation...oops, "survey"...will eat up about 45 minutes of my ever-diminishing time on this planet, and I will be "asked" all sorts of questions about my house, my sources of income, where I shop, what I buy...you know, all the sorts of intrusive details that the Founding Fathers surely intended when, in the Constitution, they provided merely for "an enumeration" of the population every ten years.

"Your community is counting on you!" the postcard blares on its front, stamped in big black letters over a photo of the kind of house that Beaver Cleaver lived in during the 1950s. And just in case I disappoint the expectations of My Community, there's a little detail that the postcard doesn't state: I can be fined $5,000 for refusing to spill my guts to Virginia about all the personal aspects of my life and finances.

So, who wants all this info, and for what?

Well, the federales surely do: It provides statistical ammo for those "progressives" always looking for rationalizations to expand governmental programs and spending that are already wildly out of control. "The government makes investments and allocates tax dollars with guidance from a survey that costs $225 million this year, with the resulting shaping choices and projections made by the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Transportation Department among others," reports The Fiscal Times. That's why (according to a publication called Government Executive) "the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress" and "the Census Project, a coalition of 600 associations, think tanks, academics, local officials and civil rights groups" is fighting congressional efforts to restrict the Census to the "enumeration" intended by the Framers.

Also, private businesses mine the Census for free economic and demographic data that they otherwise might have to pay for by conducting surveys of voluntary  participants. That's why such crony-corporatist outfits as "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the Mortgage Bankers Association have previously lobbied to protect the ACS," according to The Fiscal Times, "saying it’s vital for shaping business investment. As an example, the ACS contains 24 questions about housing. This includes the age of your home, its plumbing, its insurance costs, and the type of heating fuel used. For bankers and economists trying to evaluate the state of the real estate sector after the 2008 bust, it’s essential information."

How nice for them to get all that, by ordering me by law to be interrogated for 45 minutes under the threat of a $5,000 fine -- and, I assume, incarceration should I refuse to pay the fine.

Virginia is supposed to call me at 5:30 pm today. I will tell her, politely, to tell her bosses that Mr. Bidinotto refuses to participate other than affirming the number and identity of the people in his home; and that he looks forward to the opportunity to write high-profile articles about all of this, naming names, should the Census Bureau decide to prosecute him for non-compliance.

Oh, and have a nice day.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, R.I.P.

I've been watching the news coverage about the life and legacy of the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher. And I am struck by how applicable her example is to our own situation here in the United States.

When she launched her political crusade, entrenched all-out socialism permeated and gripped every part of Great Britain's economy and political life. Unapologetic communists ran the trade unions, which held a stranglehold on many industries. The economy languished in deep recession. The public was demoralized, adjusted to the "new normal" of British decline. When she spoke, her message was reviled and ridiculed by all of her nation's "intellectuals," culturati, and media -- a hatred that was echoed here, across the Pond. And her own party was run by people who would make John McCain sound like Ludwig von Mises (look him up). She had no firm allies, no base of support.

But this one woman, the daughter of a grocer, armed with nothing but superb intelligence, a thorough grasp of free-market economics, and an unyielding commitment to moral principle, stood up courageously against them all...and she won. Not only did she eventually beat all of her opponents, including treacherous "allies" in her own party, but she turned around the entire British economy, government, and -- most importantly -- its Narrative about itself and its place in the world.

One woman. The Iron Lady. An instructive example of the power of a principled individual against the mindless mob.

If a single Republican politician grasped the message of her life, I have no doubt that he or she could turn our own nation's wretched course 180 degrees. For here, we have a legacy of individualism unknown to Europe.

Our "progressive" left, of course, wants to convince us that its ascendancy is inevitable. They want to paralyze all opposition, leaving us in despair and defeatism, to pave the way for their complete takeover of our lives. In fact, they believe this fantasy. Committed determinists, Marxists smugly declared that communism was "the wave of the future"...

...until the wave turned, and swept them away. The left would not grasp, still refuse to grasp, that "waves" of history are set in motion by the undeniable force of pivotal individuals unwilling to bend to the tides of stupidity.

Will we find our own Thatcher in coming years? Will a Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul, or some figure yet unknown step up to fill the moral vacuum of our age, and lead a rebirth of liberty?

I do not know. All I do know is that Margaret Thatcher showed how much is possible.

Now, we shall discover whether America still has men who can match this brave, towering woman in intelligence and unbending conviction.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

An "Endangered Species Act" for Ex-Cons?

The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EOEC) has made it a federal crime for an employer to "discriminate" against hiring certain "protected" classes of convicted ex-felons, unless the employer jumps through all sorts of hoops of justification.

In fact, it is easier for the employer to refuse to hire an ex-con who happens to be white; however, he has to leap ever-higher legal hurdles of justification if the convicted former felon happens to be a member of a "protected" minority.

Folks, I am not making this up. Eminent legal scholar Richard Epstein offers this long article about this particular symptom of "progressive" insanity. Writes Epstein:

With the [EOEC's] Enforcement Guidance [document], all private employers and all state employers must use detailed and particularized inquiries before turning down a minority applicant who has a criminal arrest or conviction on his record, even though employers can turn down a white applicant with the same past record without going through such hoops.
You can read that EOEC "Enforcement Guidance" document for yourself. Here is an excerpt from Section V (my translation of bureaucratese is in brackets):
A covered employer is liable for violating Title VII [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act] when the plaintiff [i.e., the ex-con seeking a job] demonstrates that the employer’s neutral [that means NON-discriminatory] policy or practice [of hiring] has the effect of disproportionately screening out a Title VII-protected group [i.e, someone regarded as "protected" due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin] and the employer fails to demonstrate that the policy or practice is job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.
Translation: Even an employer who has a perfectly non-discriminatory policy and record regarding hiring minorities, but who refuses to hire some convicted ex-felon who just happens to be a member of one of the "protected minorities," may still be breaking the law...unless he first somehow manages to prove that even his neutral policy of refusing to hire ex-cons is required "for the position in question and consistent with business necessity."

Got that? The businessman is "guilty until proven innocent" for refusing to hire some guy who may have been convicted for robbery or violence...simply because the businessman hasn't proved that his policy against hiring thugs is "job-related."

But wait...it gets even worse. Section V continues: 

With respect to criminal records, there is Title VII disparate impact liability where the evidence shows that a covered employer’s criminal record screening policy or practice disproportionately screens out a Title VII-protected group and the employer does not demonstrate that the policy or practice is job related for the positions in question and consistent with business necessity. [my emphasis]
What does the EOEC mean by "disproportionately screens out a Title VII-protected group"? The document goes on, in Section V. A. 2, to grouse that "Nationally, African Americans and Hispanics are arrested in numbers disproportionate to their representation in the general population." That, you see, is prima facie evidence of how "unfair" things are in Racist America, folks. Never mind that members of these minority groups also are "disproportionately" responsible for committing far more crimes per capita than Caucasians do...which of course happens to explain their higher arrest and incarceration rates.

No, the "disproportionate" number of minorities behind bars is simply assumed to be unfair, per se. From the mere fact of these incarceration statistics, the EOEC's conclusion must be read slowly, to be understood and believed:

National data, such as that cited above, supports a finding that criminal record exclusions [from hiring] have a disparate impact based on race and national origin. The national data provides a basis for the Commission to further investigate such Title VII disparate impact charges. During an EEOC investigation, the employer also has an opportunity to show, with relevant evidence, that its employment policy or practice does not cause a disparate impact on the protected group(s). For example, an employer may present regional or local data showing that African American and/or Hispanic men are not arrested or convicted at disproportionately higher rates in the employer’s particular geographic area. An employer also may use its own applicant data to demonstrate that its policy or practice did not cause a disparate impact. [emphasis added]
What does this mean in practice? Take this example:

A local restaurant owner refuses to hire some Mexican gang member who's just been released from the slammer. The ex-con, because he is Hispanic, and thus a member of a "protected minority," files a complaint with the federal EOEC. The EOEC then investigates, looking for a "disparate impact" against minorities. The hapless small businessman may already have a number of other minority employees -- obvious evidence that he doesn't discriminate based on race or ethnicity. But that is not enough. Now he is also supposed to prove that his "practice does not cause a disparate impact on the protected group" -- Hispanics -- by somehow digging up "regional or local data showing that...Hispanic men are not arrested or convicted at disproportionately higher rates in the employer's particiular geographic area."

Leaving aside the outrageous reversal of the legal burden of proof -- leaving aside, too, the enormous cost to this small businessmen of hiring attorneys and jumping through all these egregious legal hoops -- who will subsequently bear liability for a massive lawsuit if he hires this former felon, and the thug then goes on to rape a fellow employee or swindle his clients?

Richard Epstein's excellent piece offers a detailed legal analysis of this ideologically driven absurdity, which can allow thugs to be hired as security guards and thieves as bank tellers...if they're demographically lucky enough to fall under the protections of this twisted, "progressive," racial/ethnic variation of the Endangered Species Act.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Manifesto for "Coercive Paternalism"

"You're too stupid to know what's best for you. I'm from the government; I know better; and I'm here to straighten you out...for your own good."

Insulting, eh? The essence of everything we, as Americans hate, right?

Well, comes now a $95 tome titled--are you ready?--Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.  

No, I am not making this up. 

The book's product description on Amazon notes that, in America,

to respect autonomy is often understood to be the chief way to bear witness to the intrinsic value of persons. In this book, Sarah Conly rejects the idea of autonomy as inviolable.... Thus in many cases it would advance our ["our"?] goals more effectively if government were to prevent us ["us"?] from acting in accordance with our ["our"?] decisions. Her argument challenges widely held views of moral agency, democratic values and the public/private distinction.
Quoth the author from her own faculty page listing:
I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your ["your"?] own decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of autonomy is based on a belief that we [including her?] are much more rational than we actually are. We now have lots of evidence from psychology and behavioral economics that we [her too?] are often very bad at choosing effective means to our ends. In such cases, we [her too?] need the help of others—and in particular, of government regulation—to keep us [ditto] from going wrong.

This apology for naked totalitarianism was written by one Sarah Conly, an assistant professor of (what else?) philosophy at Bowdoin College--at least nominally an American institution of Higher Learning. A wet dream for dictatorially minded "progressives," her book naturally earned the honor of publication by the Cambridge University Press, and spotlight review treatment in the New York Review of Books--the reviewer being none other than Cass Sunstein, Barack Obama's very own former Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Prof. Sunstein, it should be noted, is author of his own nanny-state tribute to technocratic governmental manipulation of the citizenry: NUDGE: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Sayeth Sunstein, on his own book's Amazon product page: "We think that it's time for institutions, including government, to become much more user-friendly by enlisting the science of choice to make life easier for people and by gentling nudging them in directions that will make their lives better." 

Why, how kind and thoughtful of him!

Of course, those writing and enforcing government regulations (and books like these) are NEVER part of the "we" who are irrational, the "we" who are making so many "wrong" choices. Oh no: The progressive nanny statists are always the epitome of uber-rationality, higher education, dazzling expertise, superior taste, and sound judgment in all things. Yes, what a wonderful utopia we would inhabit...if only us rubes would surrender to them our damned autonomy. Who needs that Bill of Rights with such technocrats to (their words) "coerce" and "nudge" us?

When I say that the ultimate objective of "progressives" is to impose totalitarian control over every aspect of our lives--that they are motivated by an unquenchable lust for unlimited power--some of you undoubtedly think I'm wildly exaggerating. 

But how, then, to deny their own words, as they spell it out so clearly and ominously?

(A hat tip to my friend Bob Hessen for calling my attention to this, and you also might give Ann Althouse's brief blog about it a look.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013


As both a nonfiction author and a bestselling novelist, I've pondered certain puzzles for decades.

Why do people find certain ideologies and philosophies appealing, but not others? Why do we so often hold to our points of view dogmatically, intractable to all facts, reason, and logic? What is the source of dreams? Why do certain common myths seem to be indelible and universal, across cultures and throughout history? Why does music conjure in us mental imagery? What is the key to the kind of motivational commitment that impels some people to face and triumph over incredible odds and obstacles? Why do we find certain people, at first glance, overpoweringly attractive, and others repulsive? Why do we love some books and movies, and hate others?

These and many other mysteries of the human mind and personality are central to the concerns of the artist, psychologist, historian, or person plying any field of communication or persuasion. But is there anything that links together all of these apparently disparate things?

In his brilliant and engrossing The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall reveals the central, essential, and seminal role played by story -- or "Narrative," as I've called it -- in human thought, action, and culture. Moving with seemingly effortless creative ease from riveting personal anecdotes to abstract sociological theories, from baffling historical phenomena to intriguing psychological experiments, Gottschall offers a key to understanding much that has baffled man throughout the ages.

For decades, I had believed that philosophical ideas and ideologies reigned paramount in the culture. But over time, events and experience began to collide with that assumption. I began to wonder, for example, why people holding the same ideas, nominally, could live so differently -- and why some philosophies seemed to have more cultural traction and durability than others. I was introduced to the extraordinary power of stories when reading the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell. Aspiring to write fiction, I also became fascinated by how timeless, transcultural myths found their way into fiction and film. Building upon Campbell, "script doctor" Christopher Vogler even uses mythological archetypes to help craft hugely popular movies, and -- in his book The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers -- to school authors in the craft of fiction-writing. (Let me add that I employed some of these concepts in writing HUNTER; the novel's success is at least in part a testament to their validity and usefulness.) While conducting research on a nonfiction book project about the roots of the contemporary environmentalist movement, I also came to realize how certain ancient, mythic storylines served as the basis for modern ideologies and major religions. (Gottschall himself demonstrates this latter truth with his sobering account of the career of Adolph Hitler, who was inspired and guided decisively by the heroic operatic dramas of composer Richard Wagner.)

The Storytelling Animal touches upon all of this, and much, much more, drawing the kinds of interdisciplinary and personal connections that most of us would never make in a hundred years. Yet even so, I think Gottschall has barely scratched the surface of the far-flung implications of narratives and stories in our lives. To take just one example, I believe our current president has understood intuitively, and for years, the power of crafting a compelling "personal narrative" in order to launch and propel his political career to wildly improbable success -- and how he relied on crafting a similar "morality play" about himself and his opponents in order to win re-election in 2012. But that is just one of the important implications to be drawn from this extraordinary work.

Let me add that Gottschall himself is a wonderful writer and storyteller. A book that could have been an imposing intellectual chore and bore never flags for a moment in holding the reader and keeping him turning pages. So as not to distract or interrupt his own narrative, he sequesters a formidable array of endnotes and a vast, impressive bibliography unobtrusively, after the text.

I love books like this -- books that upend my previous understanding, books that augment my grasp of the world, books that draw breathtakingly unexpected links among apparently unrelated things. For all these reasons, I can't recommend The Storytelling Animal strongly enough. A joy to read and ponder, it's the most intellectually fertile nonfiction work I've read in years.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Understanding Mass Murder

Given my history of researching and writing about criminals, a friend has asked me to comment about the horrifying mass murder of school children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

First, it should go without saying that our chief focus and concern here should be for the innocent victims -- the little kids, the adults on the school staff, and their many grieving families. When somebody commits an atrocity like this, it's too easy for him (and it is almost always a "him") to get the lion's share of the attention -- which is one main reason why these creeps do such things. The media always comply with their desire for instant attention-by-atrocity by spending inordinate time on them rather than the many victims, whose names vanish quickly into obscurity. I won't give the dead killer that posthumous satisfaction here. I'm instead filled with sorrow for the families and friends who lost so much yesterday, including the irreplaceable, budding lives that now will never be. And many more than two dozen lives were extinguished yesterday: The lives of many survivors and loved ones will never be the same, and we also can count them as having suffered fatal wounds. I grieve for them all.

Second, regarding the killer's motive, which my friend asked me to discuss: It's hard to know what the story is here without knowing more about him -- whether he was psychotic (the sort that hears voices in his head), or a psychopath (just a nihilist). Pure psychotics are largely dysfunctional in the world, and incapable of the kind of long-term fantasizing, planning, and secrecy that such a crime usually requires. Whenever we find that a true psychotic is involved in mass killings, he seems to be a paranoid schizophrenic acting more on impulse, using whatever weapons are available and not having thought out things very clearly. But most of the time, these crimes are pre-planned and carefully prepared for -- which indicates the functioning, criminal calculation of a psychopath (aka "sociopath"). Occasionally -- as in the "Dark Knight" killing spree in the Colorado movie theater -- it appears that there's a mixture of mental illness and conscious, nihilistic cunning and calculation involved. I don't know enough in this case to hazard a guess as to what "type" the killer may be.

Once that can be determined, however, then the next question is what lame "provocation" set off this specific killing spree. There's usually a triggering event: some slight or disappointment or personal disaster that the perp regards as symbolic of his wasted life -- as a symbolic end of the road. If the person is otherwise sane, but nihilistic/psychopathic, he almost always has been nurturing such real or imagined "grievances" for a long time, building them to a slow boil. Sociopaths/psychopaths (and criminals generally) always have some rationalization for what they do. (In the age of terrorism, those rationalizations are often ideological.) They always have shaky self-esteem, coupled with the belief that their lives have been somehow "spoiled," or denied some justice or "entitlement" to the happiness that others enjoy. They always feel envy toward those hated "others" and fantasize about getting revenge, about "getting back" at those responsible for (or who remind them of) their blighted lives. And so in these crimes there is always a scapegoat class of people, who symbolize for the killer why his life has been spoiled, why some grave injustice has been committed against him, and why those "others" deserve "payback."

You have to understand this to grasp that, for the mass killer, murder is an empowering event. He is playing God with other human lives, and gets a tremendous "rush" of power and control by treating other humans like playthings. A perfect example was the case of Ted Bundy, who was kidnapping, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering dozens of young women...while simultaneously working at a suicide-prevention hotline! Nothing for me better symbolized the mass killer's addiction to the feeling of power he gets by controlling the fate of other human lives.

While both serial killers and mass murderers are motivated by the desire to experience power and control over others, "mass murders" (where a lot of people are killed in one event, or in a "killing spree" over a few days) are somewhat distinct, motivationally, from serial killings (where three or more people are murdered in sequence over a considerably longer period).

Sociopathic serial killings are usually sexualized crimes of power, control, and sometimes anger and revenge. Their nihilistic perpetrator seeks power and control, or to express anger and the desire for revenge, against a certain "type" of victim, through sexual domination, pain, and humiliation. The victim "type" symbolizes for him something deeply personal, tied emotionally to his own anxieties. The perpetrator, usually feeling that he has a blighted, empty, or inadequate life, feels the thrill of empowerment by these crimes, in which his victims are reduced to the status of toys. The serial killer is not "attention-seeking" in the sense of wanting everyone to know his name, because he doesn't want to get caught, and he takes great pains to avoid apprehension. But he usually loves hearing about his crimes in the media, getting an additional cocky "rush" by putting something over on the police, and perhaps on those around him, who don't know about his grisly secret life. Sometimes serial killings aren't overtly sexualized -- e.g., the "Unibomber," the "DC snipers," hospital nurses who poison patients, etc. But the thrill of "playing God," of exerting ultimate power and control over lives, is a constant motivational theme. And so is their wellspring and source: feelings of living inadequate, flawed lives, alienated from a society where "everybody else" seems happy, wealthy, and content.

In contrast to serial killings, sociopathic mass-murders are almost always attention-seeking devices -- nihilistic crimes intended "to show THEM" (the scapegoat class, or society at large), to "get back" at the symbolic tormentors. The killer usually wants his name to be broadcast far and wide; he seeks infamy, because he's "making a statement" against the society that (in his fantasy) has irreparably ruined his life. The key word here is "irreparably." Because he thinks he can never find solace and happiness, his killings are usually "suicide missions" planned with military precision; he often dresses up in quasi-military garb for the "mission" and fantasizes himself as being a "soldier" conducting an "operation"; and he usually expects or intends to "go out in a blaze of glory" -- to die during the killing spree, either in a hail of bullets from the cops, or by his own hand.

Obsessive fantasizing and mental "rehearsal" are two other necessary ingredients to mass murders and serial killings. These types of people live, day and night, in a world of nonstop fantasy: revenge fantasies, sadistic sexual fantasies, fantasies of nihilistic destruction. They "rehearse" their crimes constantly in their heads, long before they actually commit them. They also frequently "rehearse" their crimes in slowly escalating forms. Serial killers often begin with sadistic porn, graduate to being "peeping Toms" and stalkers, then perhaps burglars -- invading private homes where their targets live, and stealing and collecting intimately personal "trophies," such as underwear. As they start to act out their fantasies, they carefully prepare "kits" with abduction items and various sadistic tools or sexual toys. Similarly, mass murderers often stockpile weapons and military "camo" garb, conduct "advance recon" on target sites, carefully plan their "missions," and practice shooting at firing ranges or on video games while imagining that the targets are their intended victims.

This explains how killers can commit horrific crimes. Just as surgeons have been given a rationale for cutting into the human body, and are then trained through endless rehearsals to "get used to it" -- just as soldiers have been given a patriotic rationale for committing mayhem on "the enemy," and are then trained through endless rehearsals to "get used to it" -- so too do mass murderers and serial killers prepare themselves with rationalizations and excuses, and then engage in obsessive fantasy and rehearsals, to "get used to" committing monstrous acts against innocent others. In their minds, their "targets" are anything but "innocent," you see.

In this particular case, you might wonder, "How could classrooms of little kids be regarded by the killer as his tormentors or as perpetrators of injustice against him?" In fact, of course, they can't be. But again, these crimes are symbolic.

One media report suggest that the perp was a "loner" who played lots of video games and lived with his mother; a friend described him as "very thin, very remote and [he] was one of the goths.” Reports are that the killer first murdered his mother, who was a teacher or teacher's aide at that particular school. That seems to be a significant "triggering event," and a likely link to a possible motive. If I had to guess at this point, based only on paltry evidence, I'd suspect that this killing spree was probably about hatred of his mother and/or "getting back" at her -- about a nihilistic desire to "show HER" by destroying the kids to whom she was paying a lot of attention, "rather than ME." Or perhaps he had been a student at that (or a similar) school, and was either tormented by other children or felt miserably alienated from them; and now, at age 20 and with an empty life, blamed the school for his misery. [UPDATE: It's now uncertain that his mother had any direct connection to the elementary school. I have read that she removed the perp from high school and home-schooled him. In some fashion, school seemed symbolic to him, but we'll have to await more information.]

Again, these are only wild guesses, based on paltry preliminary information. But it wouldn't surprise me if something like that was going on in this guy's head. It would fit the pattern of so many similar crimes.

One thing I do know: Gun control won't stop crimes like this. Mass killers would only use other means -- and they do. The same day that this blood bath was occurring in Connecticut, we read of some similar monster in China stabbing dozens of kids in a school. It is also noteworthy that the worst such mass-killing in an American school occurred in 1927, when somebody used three bombs to blow up a school.

So, what do we do -- outlaw knives, or the many simple household chemicals that people can use to make bombs? Then they'd turn to poisoning food in the school cafeterias -- or dumping toxins into public water supplies -- or chaining building doors shut and burning them down, with their occupants. Or driving cars along sidewalks, mowing down pedestrians. Or hijacking airliners and slamming them into buildings. Or dumping acid over the balconies at sporting events onto spectators below. Whatever. The destructive possibilities for nihilists who fantasize obsessively about such things, 24/7, are boundless.

The fact is that objects don't murder. Murderers do. Given the ingredients of blighted lives, social alienation, revenge fantasies -- and these days, an "entertainment" culture that glorifies sadistic brutality, plus "empowerment" ideologies that give millions of followers moral rationalizations to commit violent mayhem in response to various alleged "injustices" -- we will always have mass nihilistic crimes.

Depriving ordinary people of the means of defending themselves won't do anything...except to increase the number of vulnerable sheep for society's roaming wolves to prey upon. Those predators will always find the tools and means to kill. But the one constant in all of their unspeakable crimes is that their victims were not allowed to possess and carry the means to fight back against their victimizers.

Who knows what the outcome might have been if the school principal or a teacher in Newtown, Connecticut, had been allowed to carry a handgun?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kevin Koloff, Esq., Representing “Hunter” to the Film Trade

I am pleased to announce that the TV and film rights for HUNTER are now represented by highly respected, veteran Hollywood entertainment attorney Kevin Koloff, Esq. With 30 years as an entertainment attorney, Mr. Koloff spent 12 years as a senior vice-president at Paramount, and his clients include Paramount, Lucasfilms, Lions Gate, numerous independent studios, and a host of well-known talents.

I’m thrilled to have Mr. Koloff’s first-rate legal representation, and I’m also happy to report that he has been aggressively promoting HUNTER to the trade in Hollywood. Anyone interested in learning more about Mr. Koloff, or in contacting him concerning the TV/film rights to my thriller, can reach his law office through his website.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Post-Election Shift of Focus

As many of you know, I've spent my entire life "crusading," in one way or another, on behalf of the ideas and ideals I hold dear. That career began when I was in my teens -- a time when The Battle was its own reward. And until recently, that career took the forms of nonfiction books, essays, journalism, reviews, speeches, and audio products.

From my current vantage point, however, if I could go back in time to restart my career, I would have begun writing fiction much sooner. Even if "changing the culture" still had been a high personal priority, my recent epiphanies about the relative cultural power of Narratives (as opposed to abstract philosophy/ideology) imply that any fiction I may have written probably would have had far greater cultural impact than all of my nonfiction proselytizing.

But in truth, I no longer desire to invest myself in a vocation of "cultural change." At best, that is a dubiously ephemeral and constantly frustrating enterprise, in which progress is impossible to quantify. What would "success" look like? And if I can't tell whether my actions are making "a difference," then what's in it for me? In short, "changing the culture" is a woozy objective that is both subjective and selfless.
At this stage in my life, I want to externalize and objectify my private visions of characters that I admire, in Narratives written mainly for my own pleasure, rather than for whatever cultural benefits they might generate. Writing fiction, I've discovered, is a process that challenges my creative abilities to the utmost, that remains completely within my control and responsibility, and that leads to outcomes that are tangible, measurable, and thus more personally rewarding.

The writing of HUNTER taught me that I could do such work, and do it well. The joy and fulfillment that I experienced during the process taught me that I should do it. But I'm getting a late-life start in this new career. I have a lot of catching up to do. I waited until the end of this pivotal election campaign to give my new career the focused attention it deserves and requires. Now is the right time to turn a new page...both symbolically and literally.

This radical restructuring of my personal priorities may cheer some of you and disappoint others. I would be a liar if I were to tell you that either prospective reaction weighed heavily in my decision. I'm doing this for me, no one else. I offer these words only to explain to you, my good friends, why you will see changes here and on my other online platforms.

Thanks in advance for your understanding and, I hope, your continued interest and support.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Election 2012 and the Clash of Narratives

"Why Let the Rich Hoard All the Toys?"

So asks New York Times's columnist Nicholas Kristof, in an op-ed that constitutes a perfect, and revealing, distillation of the progressive Narrative—the Narrative that has become the central, if unacknowledged, issue of the 2012 presidential election.

Kristof writes:
Imagine a kindergarten with 100 students, lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys.
Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly—empty-handed.
The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together!
“What’s going on?” you ask. “Let’s learn to share! One child shouldn’t hog everything for himself!”
The greedy little boy looks at you, indignant. “Do you believe in redistribution?” he asks suspiciously, his lips curling in contempt. “I don’t want to share. This is America!”
And then he summons his private security firm and has you dragged off the premises. Well, maybe not, but you get the point.
That kindergarten distribution is precisely what America looks like. Our wealth has become so skewed that the top 1 percent possesses a greater collective worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

This is America—according to the Narrative accepted and advanced by progressives like Kristof. It is the Narrative that has guided Barack Obama throughout his entire career.

And it is the reigning social Narrative that should be challenged during the waning days of this election campaign.

The progressive's Narrative is erected on a zero-sum, tribal socio-economic model. In this model, the tribe's wealth ("national income," "Gross National Product," etc.) is collectively owned, and exists in a limited quantity. Those premises are illustrated in standard economics texts by means of "pie charts" indicating various "shares" and "distributions" of "national" wealth.

Given these premises, it follows that any one tribal member's "excessive" accumulation of personal riches could not have been individually produced ("You didn't build that!"), but was instead swiped from the tribal pot of wealth, and thus acquired at the expense of everyone else. It further follows that the moral task of the tribal leaders (the President, Congress, regulators, etc.) must be to tax away that "excess" (stolen) wealth and pour it back into the collective pot, so that everyone in the tribe will have access to his equal "fair share."

It is appropriate that Kristof chose a parable of children in a kindergarten to illustrate the progressive worldview. For progressivism is not a mature, adult philosophy, but a juvenile story—an immature, childish Narrative about how the market economy supposedly works. More specifically, it is a primitive Narrative, one rooted far back in mankind's distant tribal past. This timeless Narrative has been resurrected and propagated endlessly in classic myths, allegories, and parables, such as Robin Hood, the Sermon on the Mount, Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," and Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life." It remains the central plotline of endless novels and films in which rapacious (more recently, carcinogenic) corporate tycoons crush the souls, jobs, and lives of hapless, hard-working "little people." Arguably, it goes back to the Prometheus myth in ancient Greece: After all, Prometheus didn't create fire as his gift to man, but stole it from the gods (Zeus: "Prometheus, about that fire—you didn't build that!")

Here, we see this same primitive, childish mythology put forth on the op-ed page of the New York Times, by an educated, pampered, and (hypocritically) wealthy member of the elite progressive media. In his parable of a schoolboy "hoarding" all "the" toys, the unstated premises are: All the toys are collectively owned by the kindergarten; they exist to be shared equally and in common; and this one greedy kid's "hoarding" of contents taken from the collective toy box imposes losses on all the other kids.

Kristof's juvenile myth reveals, by implication, another tacit premise of the "progressive" Narrative. Observe that in this zero-sum social world, the kid hoarding the "toys" had nothing to do with the toys' production, or with their presence in the kindergarten. ("Kid—you didn't build them!") Yet, somehow, the "toys" are just there. The kindergarten has been magically, mysteriously, but "lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys."

Supplied...how? and by whom? 


From before the days of Marx, the left's zero-sum Narrative evades those questions and their answers. It evades the issue of production and those who make it possible: individual producers. In the progressive Narrative, they simply do not exist. Goods and services are simply here, like the fruit that appears each year on apple trees. As liberal pseudo-economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote decades ago in The Affluent Society, "the problem of production has been solved"; the real problem now, he said, was "fair" distribution of what was produced. Likewise, to Barack Obama, since business people "didn't create that" wealth, the goal now is to "spread the wealth around." (Note: "the" wealth, not somebody's wealth.)

So what, exactly, is "the problem of production"? What was the "solution"? Who solved it? Don't they deserve to be compensated handsomely for solving it? And by what moral right does the tribe—which did not solve the problem of production—come in and seize the fruits of those who did?

None of these questions are raised or answered by progressives. Liberalism, socialism, "progressivism," Marxism, fascism—i.e., collectivism of any variant—all begin with the unexplained presence of wealth in the world; those who actually created it are causally irrelevant. After all, if "the" wealth is here causelessly, then those who have acquired a lot of it must be takers, not makers. 

Morally, so-called "social justice" represents a negation of justice plain and simple. More fundamentally, it constitutes a war on causality. It is an effort to seize effects (goods and wealth) while denying their cause (individual producers). Of course, it never occurs to "redistributors" that when you do that, you remove all incentive for those unacknowledged producers to continue producing—and that you will create a society with an overall shrinking "pie" of wealth. In short: a society such as the one we are experiencing today.

But to those mired in this Narrative, facts do not matter. Real-world consequences to real people do not matter. The only thing that matters is affirming, advancing, and protecting the Narrative.

Now, it was understandable that our primitive ancestors would accept a zero-sum, tribal Narrative about wealth. In their hunter-gatherer world, basic needs were filled mainly by scavenging from nature, not by producing goods. Facing myriad threats, vulnerable individuals grouped together in tribes as a matter of survival. Threats also came from other tribes, which were competing for access to the same natural resources. It was a brutal, zero-sum world of privation, of a limited "pie" of wealth—fostering an ethos of kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.

It was not until the Agricultural Revolution that men began to break free of the zero-sum existence of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. For the first time, production allowed men to increase the food supply—to expand the size of the "pie." No longer did one person's gain entail another person's deprivation. With the gradual increase of production under a division of labor, and with free trade among those producing specialized goods, the "pie" of wealth began to grow rapidly. With the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, living standards, which had remained at subsistence levels since the dawn of man's presence on Earth, suddenly began to soar, and so did life expectancy.

But while the zero-sum social world was disappearing, the zero-sum Narrative did not vanish from the minds of men. People still tried to fit the events and changes around them into a familiar explanatory matrix, and to populate the morality play in their heads with new casts of heroes and villains. As centuries passed, tribalism morphed into feudalism, then nationalism, then various forms of ideological collectivism: socialism, communism, fascism, racism, Nazism, not to mention collectivism's religious-based variants. Whatever their differences, all still clung to the basic plot of the story: of a brute conflict among individuals and classes for limited wealth in a zero-sum world, and of the need for the tribe to suppress individual greed, for the common good.

Capitalism—which rests on individual productivity and voluntary, "win-win" trading—clashed with the zero-sum, "win-lose" Narrative in every key respect. Capitalism also represented a dire threat to those whose values, thinking, institutions, and lifestyles remained mired in the zero-sum morality tale. So, they tried to interpret capitalism and capitalists within the framework of that Narrative. Not grasping that wealth made by production and trade did not come at someone else's expense, they bitterly clung to the notion that wealthy entrepreneurs must be like the ruthless "robber barons" of the feudal period, and that having wealth was in itself proof of grand-scale theft from the tribe—a worldview summarized by 19th Century muckraker Henry Demarest Lloyd in the title of his book Wealth Against Commonwealth.

And so it remains, even now. Despite the fact that the capitalist system of individual freedom, private property, and free trade has led to the greatest explosion and broadest distribution of wealth in history, it clashes with the interpretive story that gives many people a profound sense of meaning and worth, and with the multitude of social institutions in which that worldview is deeply embedded.

In this, the Twenty-First Century, it is ironic that a Narrative drawn from mankind's primitive, brutal, tribal past is labeled "progressive."

And it is a sad commentary on the current state of philosophy and politics that individuals who bitterly cling to this childish, atavistic Narrative occupy editorial offices of our major newspapers, positions of leadership in our cultural institutions, and, of all places, the Oval Office of the White House.

Which brings us now to the presidential election of 2012.

That this election race is even close is appalling. An abundance of dismal facts and ominous economic statistics ought to weigh decisively in voters’ minds against rehiring Barack Obama. But the Romney campaign, for the most part, simply recites and repeats those facts and statistics as if they “speak for themselves.”

However, facts never speak for themselves. Facts always must be put into some context—some interpretive framework.

Team Romney has amassed—and in my opinion, has been squandering—millions of advertising dollars hammering away at the terrible economic statistics…statistics that every voter already knows. Meanwhile, Team Obama has been spending its money telling a story about those statistics, providing voters a matrix for interpreting them. In this competition, the supposed Romney cash advantage over Obama is irrelevant. As pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen warned Team Romney a few weeks ago, “Message beats money every time.”

And in a war of messaging, a story beats statistics every time.

This election is all about Narrative. By "Narrative," I mean more than a campaign theme, or even a guiding abstract philosophy. I mean a story that concretizes and communicates that theme or philosophy in a compelling, personal way. To reach the minds and touch the souls of those who do not think in terms of statistical and ideological abstractions—and even to motivate those who do—campaign messages must be personalized and dramatized.

A campaign Narrative personalizes and dramatizes facts, statistics, events—and philosophic principles. A good Narrative also helps a candidate seem credible and relatable; hence, it makes his message and policy prescriptions more believable. (Think of Ronald Reagan, “the Great Communicator,” and his stories.) This is especially true if the personal history and character of a candidate are tied to the overarching Narrative: if he becomes an exemplar and hero of the story.

The 2012 election ought to offer a clear choice between two campaign Narratives. But for too long, Team Romney has abdicated on the responsibility of presenting its own Narrative, and passively let itself play the villain role in Team Obama's Narrative.

As soon as it became obvious that Romney would be the Republican standard-bearer, the Democrats launched an incessant campaign to “position” his image in the minds of voters, so as to render him unelectable. As Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote in their marketing classic, Positioning: “The easy way to get into a person’s mind [i.e., to establish an impression, or “position”] is to be first.” And: “If you didn’t get into the mind of your prospect first (personally, politically, or corporately), then you have a positioning problem.”

The Democrats were first to “position” Romney’s image with swing voters, by advancing a fabricated-but-toxic personal Narrative about the candidate—and by tying him to a broader-but-equally-toxic philosophical Narrative about the Republican Party. A Reader’s Digest–style condensation of that storyline would go something like this:
Barack Obama is not responsible for today’s horrible state of affairs. The Republicans, led by George W. Bush, created the terrible economy that's making you suffer. You are poor because the Greedy Rich, which the GOP champions, are stealing from you by not paying their "fair share" of taxes and by outsourcing your jobs to China. And Mitt Romney is the poster boy for all of this evil: He’s a cold-blooded rich guy whose Bain Capital outsourced jobs, and who thus made obscene wealth at your expense. We must repudiate Romney and his greedy Republicans, and compel the thieving rich to pay their “fair share”—by re-electing Barack Obama and endorsing his policies of “fairness.”
There is the leftist “social justice” morality play, complete with heroes and villains—a philosophical Narrative also tied to personal Narratives about Romney and Obama. Of course it is a ludicrous distortion of reality. But thanks to the default of the Republicans, it has been the only explanatory Narrative out there for voters to consider.

Month after month, the Democrats unleashed an unending barrage of attacks on Romney’s personal character, on his days at Bain Capital, on insinuations of tax-avoidance and secret off-shore accounts. The aim was to paint a portrait of a rich swell who made money off the suffering of Little People—a callous, greedy, rapacious bastard without a hint of compassion.

The smears have largely worked, because of how deeply ingrained the zero-sum mindset has become. It provides millions with a simplistic explanation of the world. Those who hold that outlook, especially those ideologues who purvey it, cannot conceive of "win-win" economic relationships. The plot structure of their economic Narrative demands that each cast member play an assigned role either as rapacious villain or exploited victim. Independent creators? Peaceful traders? They are not part of the class-conflict morality play.

And in response to all of these smears, the Romney camp did…exactly nothing. One year ago, most Americans knew little if anything of Mitt Romney; in their minds, he was an empty suit. Yet Team Romney sat idly by as the Democrats filled that suit with the image of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Sadly, the Romney camp still has not responded aggressively to this Narrative with one of its own. The zero-sum Narrative has been allowed to dominate the national conversation, unchallenged. And in the absence of a counter-Narrative, it continues to win by default. That is because you can't beat something, even a childishly absurd "something," with nothing.

Now, ask yourself the following: Do you think the typical voter has any clue what Bain Capital is and actually does? Has Team Romney ever made an effort to explain it? Or has it tried instead to avoid—evade—any mention of Romney’s private investment company, thus lending credence to the suspicion that he has something to hide?

Yes, Team Romney has facts, events, and logic on its side. Team Obama, by contrast, has only a campaign Narrative: a scary personal Narrative that it concocted about Mitt Romney and his past, wedded to a broader philosophical Narrative that blames all our current woes on past Republican ideas and policies. And in the battle between Republican purveyors of facts, and Democrat purveyors of a Narrative, the storytellers have been winning.


What Team Romney should and must do is better articulate an optimistic, modern counter-Narrative that is rooted in our nation's unique values: the Narrative of American Individualism.

In this Narrative, prosperity comes, not as "fair shares" doled out from a zero-sum, collective tribal pot, but from individual creativity. The American individualist Narrative is one of personal productivity and free trade. It is an inspirational Narrative of private economic growth and expansion. It is an aspirational Narrative of seeking opportunity—not subsistence. It is a harmonious Narrative of peaceful, voluntary, win-win market exchanges—not of ruthless gang warfare over fixed chunks of wealth. It is an uplifting Narrative filled with the names of heroes: of Edison, Eli Whitney, James J. Hill, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Wright Brothers, and all the great inventors and achievers of today's Information Age.

Team Romney has yet to clearly articulate this vision, or to paint the alternatives in stark terms that will be clear to voters. To do that, they must challenge the basic premises that lie at the root of Team Obama's own Narrative: its primitivism, its tribalism, its zero-sum view of wealth-creation-and-distribution, and its ugly assumption of inherent, irreconcilable conflicts of interest among people fighting among themselves for subsistence shares from a limited store of wealth.

In addition, they must tie a personal Narrative about Mitt Romney to the philosophic Narrative. Ads and personal appearances should celebrate his life and his career at Bain Capital as an American success story. He must publicly, proudly declare that he has earned every penny of his wealth, through hard work and fair dealing—that Bain Capital succeeded by spreading success, not by exploiting and destroying others—and that unlike Barack Obama, all of his investments and charitable works have been done with his own money, not the taxpayers'.

This proud repudiation of guilt for his own wealth would completely deflate Team Obama's toxic personal Narrative about him. And without that Narrative—or the broader zero-sum, tribalist Narrative on which it rests—Obama would have absolutely nothing to say.

Properly articulated, the positive, upbeat Narrative of American Individualism could inspire voters to reject, decisively and perhaps permanently, the Narrative of Zero-Sum Progressivism. Consider: Voters consistently tell pollsters that they regard themselves as "conservative" over "liberal" by a two-to-one margin. Affirming the individualistic inclinations of the electorate, recent polling by Rasmussen confirms that only 31 percent of voters think the government should help troubled mortgage-holders; that only 20 percent of American adults believe it is possible for targeted government programs to help the housing market; that an overwhelming 64 percent of adults think there are too many Americans dependent on the government for financial aid; and that a whopping 83 percent favor a work requirement as a condition for receiving welfare aid.

Does that seem like an electorate philosophically primed or personally motivated to endorse the progressive, zero-sum Narrative and to rehire Barack Hussein Obama? Or rather, does it seem like an electorate ready for the inspirational appeal of a philosophical and personal Narrative rooted in American Individualism?

This election should not be merely a clash of politicians, but of basic cultural Narratives. For hundreds of centuries, the Zero-Sum, Tribalist Narrative gripped people in privation, conflict, and tyranny. It is the Narrative of primitivism and the past. By contrast, within the course of little more than two hundred years, the American Individualist Narrative established the greatest, freest, wealthiest nation in the history of the world. It is the Narrative of modernism and of the future.

We should, and we must, decide whether our country's future should be shaped by a Narrative appropriate to the centuries ahead, or by one from the darkest days of centuries past. That is what should be debated during the final month of the 2012 election campaign.

Now, it is up to Mitt Romney to seize this historic opportunity. 

Robert Bidinotto

For some background and previous thoughts on this topic, see my earlier essays, "The Narratives That Guide Our Lives" and "A Meditation on the Progressive Narrative."

UPDATE: This essay proved sadly prescient, as Team Romney failed in every respect to grasp the importance of the "Narrative" issue, and thus sank to resounding defeat in an election that could have been won. On November 11, 2012, little more than a month after I wrote the preceding, Greg Sargent of The Washington Post published an extraordinary article, "The Secret to Barack Obama's Survival." It confirms, in stunning detail, how explicitly Team Obama crafted precisely the "Narratives" I described above. For those who think I am misguided in my theory, or exaggerating the power of Narratives, Sargent's article will prove eye-opening.