Saturday, December 2, 2023

On Pandemics and Psyops

Positive covid test, 2023.

I have mixed feelings about the covid pandemic and the surrounding hysteria—but I suppose this fact exposes my thesis. The global pandemic was both a real health emergency and a manufactured crisis. Whether or not the offending virus was engineered in and escaped from a lab, its effects were and still are undeniable. As I recover from my second round with the resulting disease, I figure it’s time to reflect on this duality.

First, though, I give my caveats. I’m not a scientist, nor am I a medical professional. I’m merely a historical observer and just another anecdote among billions. I have no special or secret knowledge and can’t judge the veracity of the many competing claims about the virus itself or about its vaccines.

Second, for the record, I was vaccinated in May of 2021. I received the traditional single-dose vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson. I did so willingly, but I’ll come back to this later.

Third, I should acknowledge where I was in my life when the pandemic began. In 2019, after several years of gloomy uncertainty, I had consciously chosen to be optimistic about the future. Indeed, as 2020 opened, I reached a new professional high point in my public-service career. The pandemic thus became the opening act of my own two-year crash back to the mean.

As of today, covid has been blamed for over 6.9 million deaths worldwide since January 2020 (Worldometers). We’ll probably debate whether these estimates are too high or too low for many years to come, if not forever. Canonically, George Floyd may have been the only person to die with but not from covid, so while I’m clearly in the too-high camp, I also have no doubt that the disease killed many people. If I take Switzerland as a representative example of a developed nation that didn’t suffer significant concomitant social unrest during the pandemic, she still experienced an all-cause mortality rate six percent higher than expected in 2021 (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Six percent may not seem like a lot, but my own arbitrary threshold for concern in such matters is one percent. Nevertheless, the Swiss example was a rate change, not an absolute mortality figure. Averaged over the last three years, covid has had a gross mortality rate of less than one percent overall—or about 0.34 percent per year—assuming the high numbers I cited earlier. I’ll note that this is still over three times higher than the best worst-case scenario I described in January of 2020 (Twitter).

Accordingly, while the pandemic was arguably worse than my blithe expectations, it also demonstrably fell below my threshold for concern in retrospect. Hindsight is great, but I had only suspicions at the beginning of the outbreak—though I consider these confirmed at this point.

For many years, I had watched what I took to be psychological operations come out of China and spread through the Western media. Stoking fear of an invisible threat was an easy, low-cost strategy for a socialist state to attempt to influence geopolitical rivals without resorting to the risks of kinetic warfare. Before covid, there was bird flu, SARS, swine flu, and other potential pandemics. These diseases were all real and had real victims, but the psyops never took hold.

Covid was different, whether because the media ecology had changed or the virus itself was more infectious than previous examples. This time, we fell for the psyop. Remember the videos of people dropping in the streets of Shanghai? Obvious theatrics, looking back, but even I went along with the official narrative, despite my skepticism.

I participated in the efforts to limit the spread of the virus when they were voluntary but bridled when they became mandates. Still, I set aside my principles to enforce the mandates—and got sued for the privilege. That this took a moral toll on me shouldn’t have been a surprise. I broke somewhere along the way, but that’s another story.

I never feared for myself, but I worried for the more vulnerable. I was glad, for example, that both my parents had retired before the outbreak. They could more easily avoid dangerous environments while the virus attenuated and vaccines were developed.

I took the vaccine with the protection of others in mind. I didn’t want to become a vector for something that would hurt other people. It seemed like the right thing to do, but it didn’t work. It didn’t provide immunity at least.

Did the vaccine mitigate the danger of the disease? I don’t know. Without positive test results, I couldn’t have distinguished my two bouts with covid from any other common cold I’ve had over the years. On the other hand, my reaction to the vaccine made me sicker than I’d been in at least a decade.

Thousands and thousands of people have reported vaccine injuries. Again, I don’t know the veracity of these claims, and some number of adverse experiences have to be coincidental. What I do know is that I won’t be taking a booster anytime soon. I hope I did make the right decision, but I have to allow that it’s a toss-up at best. Either way, the man I tried to become in 2019 died during the pandemic, if not because of it.

My psychological injuries aside, other damage from the pandemic response was less subjective. Businesses were destroyed. People lost jobs. Children were cheated.

The current educational paradigm is collapsing—which is another topic entirely—but the slapdash approach to “protecting” children during the pandemic robbed the model of what little benefit it still had. Academic outcomes went down across the board (Education Week). I watched my own daughter struggle in online classes. Despite my encouragement and help, her grades suffered during these, her middle years of high school. She bears some of the responsibility for her shortcomings, but I’m sure many of the problems would have been resolved had she actually been in the classroom.

Nevertheless, I remain cognizant of the human negativity bias. It helps you survive in a dangerous world, but we’ve made ourselves so much safer than ever before from privation, from disease, from predators, and even from each other that our natural threat-detection algorithms are out of balance. We now too easily see small risks, dangers, and obstacles as existential threats. Maybe this was another reason why the covid hysteria was able to grab hold of us.

Therefore, though I regret what we lost and lament the damage done, I hope—I think—we will learn from the pandemic. As always, there are positive agents and forces at work, and our arc of history has shown that these succeed over time. Humanity’s unlimited future may be a victory harder to win than even I expected a few short years ago, but all of the ingredients are still there. We just have to put them together.

Cellular biology is mostly about chemistry, and we can do chemistry. If we don’t throw civilization away in some tantrum or another, it’s only a matter of time before our technology can mitigate all biochemical threats. I understand now that the price will be almost unbearably high—even if I hope this perceived downside of up is my own negativity bias spinning out of control—but I also have to see success as baked into the equation.

That is what remains of my optimism from 2019. The pandemic changed my course and undoubtedly helped push me onto a darker path, but painful as this blow was, it broke chains too—which is yet another topic for yet another day. The truth behind the emergency may never be fully known, and we probably won’t agree on it if it ever is, but we did learn a little more about ourselves and our world … for better or for worse. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Civil Right to Bear Arms

Justice Clarence Thomas—undefeated American hero.

Yes, you have the natural right to bear arms for self-defense and other lawful purposes, and in the United States of America, that right has finally been confirmed as a civil right.

It has taken a long, strange journey to get to this point. Never mind that the first battles of the American Revolutionary War were sparked by an attempt to seize American arms. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution was explicitly amended to protect the right to keep and bear arms. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that if black slaves were recognized as free citizens, they would have the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” Never mind that the racist, slaving traitors who provoked the worst war in American history didn’t hang—but that’s a battle for another day.

In less ancient history, it’s been 14 years since the U.S. Supreme Court finally, reluctantly confirmed that the Second Amendment really did recognize an individual right to keep and bear arms—to own and carry weapons for self-defense and other lawful purposes in other words. Unfortunately, due to a quirk of American jurisprudential history, that fact still had to be incorporated among the several states. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution is still “the supreme Law of the Land.”

Nordyke v. King, an unlikely case about gun shows out of California, suddenly took center stage. For a moment it looked like the litigation would quickly establish incorporation for the Second Amendment right. Hopeful, naïve civil libertarians predicted that the citizens of California and similarly benighted states would win their rights within 18 months—but instead we got an education in en banc review. Instead we saw the lower courts in prohibitionist jurisdictions—where the unrepentant traitors’ bigoted poison had so long festered among otherwise liberal minds—revolt against the plain language of the Supreme Court.

What was supposed to be a quick victory for individual liberties became a long, exhausting and divisive slog through the courts—and even through the White House. Once we did eventually win incorporation in McDonald v. Chicago, constitutionalists, right-to-arms advocates, and civil libertarians lost again and again when we tried to make something meaningful out of the Second Amendment. Coalitions rose and fell, friendships were made and destroyed, and the Supreme Court seemed content to allow the lower courts to ignore its guidance and continue to treat the right to bear arms as “a second-class right.” That is … until today.

In the majority opinion for New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, “We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need.… New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment in that it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.” Moreover, the ruling insists upon textual and historical analysis alone when determining the constitutionality of any laws regulating the right to arms, negating the “intermediate” approach used by the lower courts so often during the last 14 years.

You have the right to carry firearms for lawful purposes … but under Justice Thomas’s reasoning, licensing regimes and other categorical prohibitions should all fall. Of course, time will tell, and the price to get this far has been steep.

However, for those of you in the six states most affected by today’s ruling, if you worry about “blood in the streets” when law-abiding gun owners are allowed to carry their weapons, you shouldn’t. That fear has always been based on propaganda. After the ruling has been implemented, you won’t notice any difference. In fact, after a few months, you will probably forget all about this … or maybe you will decide to exercise the right yourself.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Going Post-Political

Senator K. D. Harris is poised to win the most unexpected victory in American political history.

In 2015, I wrote: “I was recently told that I’m too political, which is ironic given how strong the temptation always is to disengage from politics. However, doing so might be as dangerously unwise as trying to eliminate politics altogether. That said, the present political gulf seems to be widening to that point where it becomes unbridgeable, destroying friendships, dividing families, and ruining nations.” Unfortunately, the situation has only grown worse.

Despite my own confidence in language and the written word, there is apparently nothing that I can write or say that is going to change anyone’s mind … or even sway perceptions away from preconceived positions. Instead, everywhere I look, the political vitriol seems to be increasing. There is less and less interest in dialog or discussion—and the few who do call for reasoned discourse with political opponents are often ostracized or attacked by their own factions. The “other side” has simply become evil … something that must be destroyed by any means necessary.

The implications are unsettling. There are only two ways to resolve any dispute. We can reason with each other, relying on rational conversations to discover mutual benefit … or we can apply force, whether outright violence or mere coercion. In the current political climate, the opportunity for the former option appears to be diminishing rapidly. Differences of opinion have become existential threats … as it were.

Much of my own political motivation has been about avoiding violent conflict. We live in historically exceptional times, so the conflicts shaping up around the world threaten to be catastrophic beyond any previous experience. Furthermore, violent revolutions rarely accomplish whatever noble goals their leaders may espouse, even when they succeed from a military standpoint.

Violence is inherent in current political systems. It may be veiled or controlled, but it is always there, lurking within governments, no matter whether they are corrupt or benevolent. How can I change that fact? How can any one of us?

In truth, I think there are very few who want to change this situation. State power is seductive. The temptation to apply force when you have overwhelming amounts of it at your disposal is undeniably strong. Just a little coercion here or a little violence there … Couldn’t that solve any perceived ill? Even generally non-violent people aren’t willing to give up that option … especially when they can exercise it by proxy.

In light of this, violent conflict seems inevitable. If nothing I can do will change any of it, then why subject myself to the anguish and frustration of political vitriol?

… This piece has been in the hopper for over a year now. Obviously and unfortunately, some of my primary worry has come to pass. Cities have burned, and good people are alarmed as we approach another election in the supposedly United States. This piece was supposed to announce my political silence …

I didn’t publish it … until now … which is probably good, because I failed in my goal to be silent. I had to speak out at a certain time and place … and we’ll say that it didn’t go well.

Properly chagrined, I will admit that there is only one socially acceptable choice in the upcoming American election …

Friday, January 4, 2019

Revisiting a Heated Debate

Concept of a solar reflector in high orbit.

Once upon a time, the debate over global warming and climatic change was mildly amusing to me. I could point out the false assumptions, the inadequate science, the contrarian historical evidence, and the typical human arrogance wrapped up in the matter, but I’ve grown very tired of it all now. As I noted several years ago, the obvious and most practical “solution” is already at hand, and I will revisit that in part today.

First, though, I put solution in quotes above because the most important potentially false assumption is that global warming is a problem at all. It may well be, but the facts are not yet in evidence for such a conclusion. Our models are inadequate and have failed to accurately predict outcomes thus far. Alarmism simply isn’t warranted.

Nevertheless, as I’ve previously stipulated, climatic change is something we should be concerned about. There is ample historical evidence for this, and in the longest term, we will have to actively manage the climatic conditions of our habitats, wherever or whatever they may be, if we would have human life and civilization continue indefinitely into the future. The short-term risks, though, are minimal and probably self-correcting.

The real problem, in my opinion, is that legitimate scientific inquiry and concern have been co-opted by political factions that are anti-capitalist and to some degree anti-human. They would slow, halt, or even reverse economic development for a variety of reasons, ranging from misguided environmentalism to outright misanthropy. These factions have spread the dubious alarm and fanned the flames of fear to engender public support for their political goals—and if their most radical proposals are enacted, billions of people will have to die. We will have replaced a remotely possible climatic catastrophe with a very certain political catastrophe.

For the most part, the way to mitigate potential climatic disasters is to keep doing what we have been doing throughout much of the modern era: lifting more and more people out of poverty through global economic development, reducing environmental pollution through improvements in energy technologies, and adapting to ecological changes when necessary. While our times are historically exceptional, these processes aren’t anywhere close to their theoretical limits. Taking the optimistic view, human civilization is only at the end of its beginning.

No! We’re at the beginning of the end! If we don’t do something right now, global warming will lead to mass extinctions and render the planet uninhabitable! Or so the alarmists would have us think. This doomsaying would be laughable … if it weren’t becoming the mainstream narrative believed by so many otherwise reasonable people.

That brings me back to the most obvious and practical solution to the technical problem of climatic management. The primary driver of climatic effects and cycles is solar radiation, sunlight. If we want to control or at least manage the terrestrial climate, the simplest and most direct way would be to control insolation, the amount of sunlight that reaches Earth’s surface.

There are several so-called geoengineering proposals that could achieve this, but the safest and most straightforward would be a series of orbital reflectors or shades. A constellation of such satellites could regulate global temperatures in a dynamic and very controllable manner, decreasing or increasing insolation as required. It’s a solution that would be both elegant and permanent.

The cost of such a program would not be insubstantial, but it wouldn’t be outrageous either. The technological concepts are decades old and would require no scientific breakthroughs to implement. I expect that initial development and deployment of the system would require less than $100 billion. Ongoing maintenance should be considerably less expensive, and follow-on benefits could likely repay the investments.

Solar-power satellite (

An array of solar reflectors would work well in conjunction with another proposed space-technology asset, the solar-power satellite. A fleet of these spacecraft could collect solar energy in space and beam it as microwaves to receiving stations, where it would be converted to clean electrical energy. While certainly not the only way to improve solar-power generation on Earth, space-based collection and re-transmission would overcome the reliability/availability problem that local ground-based collectors will always face.

Solar power holds a lot of promise even without on-orbit generation, but it probably can’t supplant hydrocarbon fuels in all applications. The real breakthrough in energy technology will be controlled nuclear fusion. Effective long-term implementation of that technology will also almost certainly require the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources, but the implications of essentially unlimited energy are staggering.

The availability of energy is at the root of all economic systems. The modern economic revolution is due in large part to the high energy density and relatively easy accessibility of our hydrocarbon fuels. Again, despite the doomsaying, petroleum is not going to be exhausted anytime soon. In fact, given unlimited energy, non-terrestrial resources and high-energy conversion methods can deliver virtually endless supplies. That’s when pollution and climatic effects should become our primary concerns.

A fusion-powered infrastructure would open a range of possibilities. Indoor, climate-controlled farming would become viable almost anywhere on the planet … and beyond. High-intensity water-purification and desalination processes would become affordable. Pollution reduction and capture technologies would become similarly inexpensive. And, of course, as basic survival needs became vastly easier to meet, societies would have more wealth to direct toward solving secondary and tertiary social problems.

In fact, the chief dilemma human civilization will face in the future may be surviving its own prosperity.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

American Political Dénouement

Since the unexpected election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, I have been struggling to frame my thoughts on the matter. Plenty of others have already described the electoral strategies and polling errors that explain why the political prognosticators got their predictions so wrong, so there’s little for me to add there … though I was equally wrong. Instead, I keep returning to the concept of an historical inflection point—a point at which things begin to change more rapidly than usual, whether for better or for worse. Recognizing the beginning of this inflection point drove one of the most dramatic decisions of my life, so the remarks that follow will be both personal and historical.

While many commentators have explained the electoral results accurately enough, only a few have touched directly on some of the deeper social and cultural issues. These are historically and politically interesting, so I will add my comments to the record here before indulging in more personal and philosophical commentary. However, my interpretation is no doubt incomplete … and keep in mind that where I impute political motive, I do not imply malevolence. Political organisms are fundamentally amoral, but I assume that individual political actors are pursuing good intentions—even if their would-be leaders are in fact sociopaths.

First, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee orchestrated the most impressive propaganda assault in American history, if not in all of human history. As frightening as it was, I do have to confess my awe. In collusion with the predominantly “liberal” mainstream news media, the Democrats engineered Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nomination over the more populist Bernie Sanders and positioned the obviously unelectable Trump as her opponent from the Republican Party.

Once he had secured the Republican nomination, the media launched an all-out attack upon Trump’s character. Donald Trump is boorish and impolitic, but that doesn’t make him a racist or a sexist. The allegations and “news” stories that I examined collapsed under minimal scrutiny, though I remain ready to be convinced by solid evidence. Again, very little malevolence is implied … at least below management levels. Would-be journalists pursued salacious stories until their political biases were confirmed and no further. In short, their work was lazy and incompetent, but I have no doubt that they thought they were serving the common good.

Of course, that is the historical irony. The mainstream media exercised their greatest moment of influence just when they lost control of the public narrative. Even though they couldn’t sway the overall architecture of the electoral cycle, alternative media sources on both the political right and the political left could and did point out mainstream propaganda on countless occasions. Though this honesty didn’t change my own curmudgeonly vote, I’m quite sure it did influence many, many others.

Here, I must also note that no grand conspiracy was required. Both parties were simply acting in their own interests. The Clinton campaign worked hard to make sure that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be displaced by another upstart, and the left-leaning media wanted to actualize its vision for the arc of history. As the WikiLeaks releases showed, there was direct collusion to some extent, but general goals were shared regardless.

Second, political kinisthesis had its effect, if barely. Voters have been sorting themselves throughout the United States. “Liberals” have been migrating to the coastal and urban bastions of restrictive regulatory schemes, high tax burdens, and generous public welfare benefits. “Conservatives” have remained in or moved to the rural reaches of “flyover” country, where governments are a little less intrusive. These latter voters tipped enough of the right states in Trump’s favor to win him the Electoral College, even though Hillary won the more populous states.

I retreated from California partially in acknowledgement of this effect just over three years ago. While my adopted state of Washington also went to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party has been losing ground in this arena, dropping 3.4 percentage points since AD2008. Other electoral results suggest political change, as well. For example, my county commission tipped from Democratic officers to “independents” this time around. Contrast this trend with California, where an even more dominant Democratic Party held onto its position or made moderate gains … and where the Republican Party lost 5.5 percentage points since the AD2012 Presidential contest.

This process is ongoing and may in fact accelerate in the coming years, as “conservative” cohorts of the baby-boom generation retire and migrate out of expensive “liberal” states. (I may have been ahead of the curve on this particular social surge.) The importation of left-leaning future voters has been exposed as the Democratic Party’s main countermeasure to this trend, but it will probably be stalled for at least the next four years. Even then, efforts to normalize illegal immigration have mostly affected states that the Democrats already control—but I will return to demographic transitions a little bit later.

My study of history has broadly focused on identifying causal relationships or their agents and their long-term social effects. This holistic examination of historical causation has given me the faintest glimmer of understanding for the historical forces and possibilities that act upon human civilizations. As usual, these are easier to recognize in hindsight, and no one has advanced a satisfactory theory of historical prediction to my knowledge, so what I attempt might best be described as metahistorical analysis.

At least, it is a means to understand why your initial prediction was wrong. What you thought would happen—or wanted to happen—just wasn’t historically possible. That’s where I was at the end of AD2013, when I made the decision to leave California. The historical model I was working to actualize collapsed. California was not going to become the state I needed it to be within my lifetime … or more importantly within my daughter’s lifetime.

The arc of American history had entered an inflection point. Therein, the possible outcomes became especially murky. Dramatic change comes out of inflection points. They can be times of glorious revolution or of horrific social disaster. We’re seeing the beginning of that now—and human civilization may lie in the balance.

Global historical trends may be better served in some future post, but as we emerge from the inflection point, they will all become relevant. The United States has merely been on the leading edge of Western history by some combination of luck and genius, becoming the bellwether of Enlightenment culture. If we Americans fail, the odds of Western civilization surviving the 21st century drop considerably, I suspect.

What did the election mean in this respect? Will President Trump and a Republican Congress tip us up the positive curve? Would a President Hillary Clinton have sent us down the negative curve? I don’t know. I expected terrible developments under a Clinton administration, but these also might have stoked the political will to make real positive change—or they might have literally destroyed the republic. The Trump years will avert any immediate disaster, I’m quite sure. We have at least a second chance to shore up the institutional safeguards that protect constitutional governance and individual opportunities and freedoms. However, if that fails to occur, I doubt the political will can ever again be rallied to fight for those values.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be—and there has been no shortage of jokes wondering about what’s happening on the “real” timeline. Impressive as it was, the collusion to put Hillary Clinton into the White House backfired. An honest election would have seen Bernie Sanders, championing progressive socialism for the nation, facing off against someone like Rand Paul, advocating for individual freedom and opportunity. Important issues would have been discussed … and the future of civilization would have been decided in an informed manner.

Instead … we called each other deplorable names.

What is historically possible? We’ve accomplished many great things in the 300 some years since the Enlightenment, and we’ve made some terrible mistakes. Some of these mistakes are obvious in retrospect (unnecessary wars, ethnic pogroms, and other episodes of unjustified violence). Others were more subtle, and some were metahistorical in nature, beyond the scope of individual or corporate actors to manage. For example, the direct political empowerment of women occurred almost as soon as it was historically possible, but the institutions of democratic governance built up by men over the last few thousand years were not designed for women’s different decision-making priorities and processes. Without adequate safeguards, a certain amount of social damage has resulted from this political transformation, affecting crime patterns, family cohesion, and perhaps even cultural survival. Again, little or no ill intent was involved. The sociological basis for human male and female behavioral differences had not been studied at the time of the universal suffrage movements, and the ongoing and almost religious refusal in some quarters to acknowledge that these differences even exist remains a significant part of the problem.

No one expected D. J. Trump to be elected, but his election moved us out of the inflection point—as would have Hillary Clinton’s. I was wrong. The political prognosticators were wrong. We all forgot the underrepresented demographic in American electoral politics. Right or wrong, we’ll be living with the consequences for at least several years to come. The question that remains is whether American political factions can still settle their differences peacefully in the long run.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Metafictional Musings

I wrote my first incomplete story on a manual typewriter when I was seven or eight years old.

Around the same time Loyal Sedition officially launched, I began a new fiction project that I intended to publish episodically at my static website. I imagined that I would occasionally post my thoughts about the writing process on this blog, both for my own edification and for the possible amusement of any readers. Instead, Loyal Sedition has focused mainly on politics and philosophy, touching on entertainment but rarely. It became almost my only personal writing outlet.

Meanwhile my fiction project languished … for all the usual reasons and more. The science-fictional concept behind it was beyond my ability to execute, which I quickly realized as I started to write the first couple chapters. Though I wrote the leads for several chapters, I let myself be stifled by the need for a more traditional narrative structure. The dynamic, engaging opening that I had imagined—one that would be simultaneously intensely intimate and spectacularly grand in scale—turned into disconnected scenes bracketing the characters sitting around a table talking about orbital mechanics and international treaties.

Beyond that, all I have are excuses. I don’t have enough time between working full time, establishing a part-time business, failing to maintain a satisfactory household, and all that. In truth, I lack the discipline to pursue my writing amid these and other distractions. Maybe that would remain true even if I had the wide latitude I presume to need.

Nevertheless, I’ve tried to break the impasse again and again over the years … but mostly I’ve just tinkered when the mood struck. I’ll write a sentence or a paragraph here … a page or two there. (I wrote pages and pages for my shelved Third Millennium opus.) I’ll dabble in science fiction, magical fantasy, or alternative reality. (I wrote the heartbreaking background for a bloody-handed anti-heroine from a place called Hearth.) I’ll write notes or treatments for various story ideas. (I wrote dozens of now lost pages summarizing an SF story that I eventually decided was too derivative to pursue.) In other words, I’ve toyed with many projects … but still haven’t produced any significant results.

This year, I was inspired to take a different tack. I started to write a screenplay adapted from one of my favorite novels. Building on another author’s work has freed me from the usual doubts that restrain me and lead me to surrender to other distractions. Intellectually, I know that I have to start by placing the plot elements into the story, even if I later have to rearrange, polish, or even remove some of them. Emotionally, though, I too often fail to lay that first course of storytelling bricks … and instead succumb to frustration.

In this case, the building blocks have already been placed. Working within the constraints of a different narrative medium, I can rearrange, rebuild, or even replace the plot pieces that don’t properly fit. Otherwise, the job is akin to editing a completed manuscript. I still need to provide a good measure of creativity due to the aforementioned narrative limitations, but the adaptation process will get me over that first emotional hurdle.

Already, I have made much more progress than usual, drafting about 200 pages of a probable 600-page project. I’m now confident that I can carry the exercise through to completion. Being an adaptation of other copyrighted work, this project is very unlikely to see publication. As much as I would love to see it produced as perhaps a 12-episode television series, I’m hoping that the exercise itself will prove valuable to both my desire and ability to write … even if the work must remain out of general view by design.

This post may not rise to my usual “high” standard of entertaining or thought-provoking fare, but it seemed a worthwhile milestone to place for future reference. Will it mark a meaningful change to my unrequited aspirations as a writer? Or will it mark yet another dead end in that pursuit? We shall see.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Terror and Tragedy

I had planned to report on the Ninth Circuit’s en banc decision in Peruta v. San Diego … but then came the horrific events in Orlando. The appellate court denied the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms in public … while a Muslim terrorist simply ignored such prohibitions in order to murder dozens of people whose homosexuality offended his religion. If you don’t understand why both of these things were constitutionally and morally wrong, then you are a self-deluding fool … or an Islamic terrorist.

Even in shall-issue Florida, the killing still took place in a gun-free zone. Firearms are prohibited in bars and other drinking establishments. Now, given the clientele involved, the victims in this incident were reasonably unlikely to be armed even if weapons weren’t prohibited, but the prohibition certainly did nothing to stop the murderer. Moreover, as he was apparently a licensed security guard, the killer knew full well that his intended victims would be “legally” disarmed.

The outcome might have been different … but probably not.

This isn’t about tactics, political or otherwise. It’s about fundamental principles and natural rights. What we saw both in California and Florida were violations of principles and attempts to suppress rights. Both events should be seen as abhorrent to their own degrees in what was supposed to be an enlightened, egalitarian culture—but I know they won’t.

The American experience came so close to that egalitarian dream, but now that light will fade. Our divisions will widen, our misguided envy and misplaced jealousy will fester, and we will slowly but surely tear ourselves apart. The only real question at this point is the magnitude of our fall.