Wednesday, March 19, 2014


We have encountered some jamming in our signals, so we will have to go quiet the remainder of this week.  We'll try to catch up Monday. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Insensitive Cheerleaders

Up in Saskatchewan at the University of Regina, members of the cheerleading team posted a picture on Instagram:

Some of the women in the Instagram picture are wearing plaid shirts and cowboy hats, while others have feathers, headbands and braids in their hair and dresses that are made to look like they're made from animal skin.
You can read the story and see the very innocuous picture at the link.  The women who perpetrated this horror will no doubt be subjected to diversity re-education. 

I wonder how badly it would mess things up if any of the girls turn out to be of aboriginal stock? 

One of the professors was disturbed:

"I was disturbed by the image, and I thought that the team, like all of us who live in Saskatchewan, likely need formal education on the topic," Sterzuk told CBC News, "because treating First Nations and Métis women as a costume objectifies them, and that behaviour, I think, contributes to their dehumanization, which is a larger problem that I think all Canadians need to be concerned about."

Really?  Is this just about the Indians?  Was it all right to "objectify" the cowboys?  What about everybody eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Pat's?  What about the elves at Christmas and witches on Halloween?  Patriots on the Fourth of July or Dominion Day?  Where does it end? 

If dressing up as somebody you are not "dehumanizes" what you dress up as, what does that mean for transvestites? 

If we were to ever start demanding consistency in thinking, I suspect these petty little despots would be immobilized, impaled upon the horns of their own dilemma. 

What these girls need to do is to "come out" and declare themselves as Trans-Racials, that they are really "First Nations" on the inside.  Just start up a chapter and demand their own student union where they only serve fish and caribou prepared in a traditional manner or something equally ridiculous.  Beat the education mafia at their own game.  

We don't need "formal education" on sensitivity -- not that such a thing is possible.  You can be indoctrinated or brainwashed to be politically correct, but you can't be a truly educated, thinking human and accept this hogwash.  The prigs and prudes of political correctness are in desperate need of an education in humor (or humour, for our Commonwealth friends).  If you can't take a joke, you are not fit to associate with civilized people.

The actual words Owen Wister had his character utter were, "When you call me that, smile!"    

Monday, March 17, 2014

Border Wars and Outlaws, History and Legend

Missouri outlaws loom large in both history and fiction.  The myth of Jesse James like that of Robin Hood, Billy the Kid, Dick Turpin, and Ned Kelly is apt to mix the factual with the fantastic.  In the case of the James brothers and the Younger brothers, open conflicts helped shaped both the legends and the reality. 

The question in the 1850s was whether the territory of Kansas would enter the Union as a Free or Slave state.  Northern abolitionists sent money and Sharps rifles to like-minded settlers.  As Missouri accepted slavery, some of its residents sought to spread the plague to Kansas. The result was the Border War which gave impetus to men like John Brown, James Lane, William Clarke Quantrill, and William T. Anderson. 

The fictional Missouri farmer Josey Wales rode with the very real Bloody Bill Anderson who was involved in two different events named for the small central Missouri town of Centralia:  the Centralia Massacre and the Battle of Centralia.  September 27, 1864 was not a good day to be a Union soldier in that neighborhood.  According to some stories, the guerrillas were shocked to see Johnston's troops dismount to fight.  The Union soldiers' muzzleloading rifles were no match for the mounted mobility and firepower of multiple revolvers and/or multiple loaded cylinders deployed by Anderson's men.

Quantrill's fictional protege Rooster Cogburn gained his famous eye-patch from a wound sustained in the Battle of Lone Jack.  Cole Younger, depicted as meeting Mattie Ross at the end of the 2010 version of True Grit, really was at Lone Jack for the battle.  

(My ancestors were not part of this.  They came in later from Indiana, Nebraska, and Tennessee and tended to be sympathetic to the Union cause, abolition, and Republicans.)

The University of Missouri and the University of Kansas, which is in Lawrence, KS, were, until Missouri left for the SEC, conference rivals in the Big Eight and Big Twelve.  The meetings, especially on the basketball courts, between the two teams were considered a (usually) less bloody continuation of the Border War. 

If you want to read a little more about the strife that foreshadowed the death and destruction of the American Civil War, I can suggest a couple of books --  War to the Knife:  Bleeding Kansas by Thomas Goodrich and Bleeding Kansas:  Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era by Nicole Etcheson.  I have read Goodrich's book, and, though the Amazon reviews are unfavorable, I thought it was good.  I have been trying to get hold of Etcheson's book, but I never order anything from Amazon. 

Another book, primarily about the Youngers, which I read and enjoyed is Marley Brant's The Outlaw Youngers

It is good to know the past events and pressures that helped to shape the present.  I don't know if those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  Perhaps if we know how we got here, it might help us figure out where we are headed.  At least we might recognize where are when we get there.

History is always a sifting of facts that become a narrative, depending, often, on who is better at wholesale bloodletting.  Thus, the sacking of Osceola by the despicable and cowardly James Lane gets a lot less play than Quantrill's retaliatory Raid on Lawrence.

While hardly historically accurate, I still enjoy something like Warren Zevon's "Frank and Jesse James".  History is the chronicle of what happened, sometimes through wisdom and courage, just as often through foolishness and perfidy.  Legend is the way it should have been, and, unlike the accidents of history, legends may tell us who we are.   

I Won't Be Planting Potatoes Today

I wasn't going to anyway, but no one around here will be.  I did plant potatoes on St. Pat's in 2012 under very pleasant conditions.  Not only has it been possible the last few years, but it was often possible when I was a boy, though we usually waited until closer to the end of the month.  One year that it wasn't an option was 1960 which had a fairly normal winter, to the best of my recollection, until about the 22nd of February.  We had a month of snowy, icy, frozen mayhem before the ground became visible on the 22nd of March.

I think they used to call it "weather". 

By the way, one of my neighbors dropped by last fall to share some heirloom "vining okra" seeds (which I will try out this year and report on, the Lord willing).  He told me that he had seen a hornet's nest in one of his fruit trees that was very close to the ground.  The ones I've run across are usually eight to ten or twelve feet up.  I think he said this one was around five feet off the ground. 

"You know what that means?" 

"Bad winter?" I ventured. 

"Yep," he said.  I saw him a couple of weeks ago and reminded him of that exchange, acknowledging that his sign had proven accurate. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Another Glimmer of Hope in America

Carey Wedler explains where the real "gun" problem lies:

This young woman voted for Obama in 2008 and is probably not a person who agrees with my views on social issues, but she is for liberty and comprehends the dangers of an out-of-control government.  I respect and appreciate that.  We can debate and disagree, but we have to stand together against tyranny.  She gets it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Not A Battle Rifle?

First, an AR or an AK is not a battle rifle, nor are the civilians versions “assault weapons”  -- but you knew that.   When someone who purports to be an expert shows a picture of an AR and says to the average prepper or student of prudence that a “battle rifle” is the most important firearm in the survivalist/prepper arsenal, I shake my head. 

I know a lot of good ol’ redneck boys and girls who own and regularly shoot AR-type rifles.  They are excellent firearms in many situations, including predator hunting.  They are great platforms for customization.  You can put good optics and accessories on them.  There are a plethora of after-market products for personalization.  They are accurate, tough, reliable weapons.  Buy one. 

I don’t have one, and I don’t have any plans to buy one, but that’s a personal thing.  I appreciate black rifles; I like them; I just don’t have any urge to have one myself. 

My personal opinion – that’s all it is – as a complete non-expert is that the one firearm I would encourage every person to have is a centerfire handgun.  The reason for a solid, dependable handgun being high on my list is that I can have it with me a lot of places a lot of the time.  I don’t care if it’s an autoloader or a single-action revolver, .45, .44, .40, .357, .38, 9mm, .380 or something more exotic, it’s not going to make that much difference.  The difference will be if, in a threatening situation, a person has both the will and the means to protect life and property.

My situation may not be typical, but I’m outside around my property, away from the house quite a bit, especially in the warmer months when we are gardening or mowing or working on this, that, or the other.  I can usually carry a handgun of some kind without it interfering with my movements or the work I’m doing.  Home invasions and hot burglaries are generally confined to more urban settings and are most often drug-related.  For now.  That’s slowly changing and some two-legged predators are seeing rural residents, especially the older ones who might have some valuables on hand, as being more attractive targets.  The last time the county deputies came out this way in a hurry, I think it was at least forty-five minutes before they arrived. 

The situation is not going to get better as the economy continues to flounder and budget constraints cause jurisdictions to cut back on personnel and hours.  Firearms themselves, electronics, farm equipment, supplies and materials, tools, or rumors of precious metals might draw in the jackals.  It may get to the point where food and fuel become attractors.  Cattle rustling has become a major crime around here.  A gang that will steal cattle might resort to violence if someone inadvertently interrupted them. 

I’m not really expecting to be involved in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.  My grandfather was born in 1863.  As a young man, he worked for a gentleman who had been a victim of bushwhackers during the Civil War.  The old man had been in bed when the raiders showed up, and he and his wife had offered no resistance to their plundering.  When, though, one of the thieves picked up the man’s trousers which were hanging on the bed frame, the victim protested, “Now, boys, please leave me my britches.” 

In response, one of the bushwhackers shot him, the ball passing through his throat.  He fell and flopped like a beheaded chicken while the bushwhacked departed, presumably triumphant, having secured the pants.  His wife fetched the local doctor who found that the bullet has passed completely through the man’s neck without doing fatal damage.  The wound was cleaned and bandaged and the old man lived for many more years with naught but a scar.  According to the doctor’s assessment, had the ball gone to either side of its path “the thickness of a piece of brown paper”, the man would have died. 

That’s the kind of thing that Ferfal reported happening in Argentina and the kind of thing that happened in Bosnia during the upheaval there in the ‘90s.  It’s the kind of thing that is most likely to happen anywhere that the rule of law begins to lose ground to tribalism, criminality, and violence.  Most of us are not going to want to join up with a gang for protection, even if the gang calls itself a militia.  We will try to get through challenging times without resorting to tribalism and living under garrison conditions. 

Personal arms that can be carried on one’s person are the best defense in such a situation.  Nobody really wants to get shot, and predators look for prey not opponents. 

So, as I said, get a “battle rifle” or whatever you choose to call it, get a shotgun, get a sniper rifle, and whatever else you like while the getting is good, but have a handgun that you can carry and keep close for when you need it most. 

And practice.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Copper Is Acting Funny Again

Right now in the middle of the afternoon, 3/13/2014, copper is at 3.02.  The five-day chart here shows the 3.12 plateau from which it has fallen.  It seems that just a few days ago, it was 3.40.

Most likely it will recover some.

What I was thinking about last night was how China has stockpiled USDs for years and years, using them to fund all their industrial imports and infrastructure projects, including their alleged ghost cities.  I don't believe in the Chinese miracle.  Central planning and a government-controlled economy eventually result in catastrophe.  China has used its economic boost to fund a massive expansion of its military.  It's the military they will use when the spinning plates of the global economy stop spinning and start crashing.  If they want to be the Pacific power, there are not far from being able to make a move.

One more thought on the Ukraine, I don't think it will go much farther.  Putin needs to sell his oil and gas in western Europe as much as Germany and the rest need to buy it.  I'd be surprised if that market is jeopardized.  Most likely Russia will back off a little and let Obama save some face. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

If You Hear I Have Died

... especially if the blog goes quiet around May of this year.  There's a good chance this'll be the reason

The Yamaha SR400 is finally coming to the States.

Here's a customized one in the scrambler/TT style from Bike Exif

I was waiting at the Yamaha dealer when the first '78 SR500 got there, and I bought it.  I've wanted another ever since I wrecked that one in '86. 

It's still kickstart, but they have transistor-controlled ignition (TCI), fuel injection, and a compression release, so it should be a little easier, plus the slightly smaller displacement.  I was out kicking the old TY175 to life this evening so I think I can manage it. 

These are not sportbikes like Ninjas or something to get me killed on the road.  They are retro machines, old tech, meant to recall the classic Brit singles, like the BSA and the Royals -- minus the finicky nature of the Brits.  They are rice-burning dinner buckets.  Except for the torque and being able to wheelie at will, they are quite tame and mild-mannered.  The top-end on the old 500 was about 90 mph.  This probably about the same.  Much beyond about 70 without a fairing, it gets a little breezy anyway.  

No, it'll be my wife that kills me.  After I bought the Victory Vision that she wanted me to get, she had a conniption that I spent a tenth of that to restore the TY.  The TY doesn't need plates or add to my personal property tax or require insurance.  An SR400 would add cost but not that much.  So we'll see if I survive.

And, of course, when it gets right down to it, I might back out.  I really don't need it, but I sure would like to have it. 

Insanity in Ohio

Zero tolerance strikes again.

This time at the Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus in Jefferson, Ohio, where 18-year-old Jordan Wiser is a student, training to be an EMT.  Wiser posted some videos of himself with weapons on Youtube.  The school decided that meant he had weapons on campus, which is, of course, strictly forbidden in the Stupid Age.

Just as an aside, I never went to school a day in my life without a pocketknife in my pocket, but I understand, things have changed a little in some areas, and knives have changed.  Still, I think school administrators and county prosecutors could show a little bit of common sense. 

Police searched Wiser’s car without his permission, discovering a pocketknife, stun gun and airsoft guns. Airsoft guns fire non-lethal, plastic pellets, and are used in sports games.

“I didn’t think anything of the Airsoft guns,” said Wiser in a statement. “Our school is a technical school, and I was planning on meeting with my Airsoft team after school. My stun gun was locked in the glove box, and the knife was in my EMT medical vest. I bought it at K-Mart and have it as part of my first responder kit for cutting seatbelts.”

The pocketknife violates the school district’s zero tolerance policy against bringing weapons onto school property — a class 5 felony.

For his crime, Wiser was carted off to jail for 13 days.

I would never advocate violence against authority figures, but it is certainly tempting in this case.  

“I won’t even be able to be a janitor. I’m 18 years old, and this is going to ruin my entire life,” he said.

Prosecutors aren’t backing down, however.

“We charge [people] with everything that we feel they are guilty of, and in this case, he is guilty of a felony,” said Ashtabula County assistant prosecutor Harold Specht in a statement.
OK, Mr. Specht, is he guilty or do you "feel" he's guilty?  How many years of school does it take to become that ignorant?  

Honestly, not being a lawyer, I don't see how that can even be possible.  How could violating the policy of the school district be a felony?  Wouldn't a felony have to a violation of a State of Ohio statute?  That means that on the books in Ohio, voted on by elected representatives and signed by a governor, is a law that says if you carry a pocketknife onto a school campus, you are guilty of a felony. 

Jordan Wiser's grandfather is dying of cancer.  Jordan can't go see him because, as a condition of his release, he cannot be around weapons.  So one judge ordered Jordan's parents to remove all firearms from their house and put them in his grandparents' house.  Now he can't go within 500 feet of his grandfather -- even, apparently, if his grandfather is not in his house where the guns are.

Does any of this make sense?

I guarantee there are actual criminals running around Ohio who are not being treated with the malice being evidenced toward Jordan Wiser, who, at worst, might be guilty of poor judgment in putting things on Youtube. 

I hope all the school administrators, police officers and prosecutors are really proud of themselves for persecuting this kid.  You are petty little tyrants.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spengler Expounds on the Russian Problem

In this piece, Goldman explains that he is a hawk, and, moreover, an American hawk.  He derides the "brain trust" American foreign policy that missed the point for so much of the last century and entirely so far this century. He makes the demographic argument sound quite plausible from both the Russian and Iranian perspectives.  He also chides the West for failing to give the right kind of support to the Ukrainians following the success of the Maidan Square protests.  Read the whole thing.

To clarify what I have been saying, for my part, I don't want to give the impression that I think Putin is a good guy.  He's a Russian nationalist, and I admit to a sort of nostalgic longing for American nationalists in the White House and Congress.  I do laugh when Putin tweaks naive internationalist dolts like Obama and Kerry.

Not all of what is going on has the potential to be amusing, except in a snide, French Absurdist way.  A lot of good people could end up getting killed if the Clowns In Charge make the wrong calls.  Having seen the mess we have made of every entanglement in my lifetime (with the possible exception of Reagan's handling of the dissolution of the USSR, as Goldman suggests), I have, at this point, zero faith in my country's ability to work this out in our country's or the world's best interests.

Since our national security is not at issue here, we ought to be good riders -- i.e., sit down, shut up, hang on.  The best thing to do is watch what happens and keep our powder dry -- keep all of our options open.  Don't commit to anything either way right now.

Putin is probably a bad guy.  The problem is that I don't see any good guys likely to arise to oppose him.  Yanuckovich?  Not a good guy.  Timoshenko?  Probably just as crooked as Yanuckovich.  Like McCain/Obama or Hillary/Jeb, it isn't going to make much difference.  They'd all look better in tar and feathers.

Update:  By the way, my wife was watching television last night and picked up some news program, maybe "60 Minutes", that was talking about Yanuckovich's lavish lifestyle.  I was in another room and she called, "You should see this house."  I was too busy, but I suppose it is extreme.  Still, I'm guessing we could buy it for what we've spent on vacations for the Obamas over the last five years, and I'm sure we could get it for what we threw away on political cronyism projects like Solyndra. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Neo-Cons Gone Wild

Roger L. Simon is much, much more intelligent than I am.  (H/T to Bob Agard) However, that does not mean that he is right, and I am wrong.  It does open up the possibility.  Simon, who claims to have moved to embrace a more libertarian stance, argues, nonetheless, that the isolationist aspect of libertarianism is too much for him to accept.  In his view, Putin's actions in the Ukraine -- I would say in Crimea, but I know what he means -- poses a problem for libertarians like Rand Paul because his father, Ron, is widely viewed as having an isolationist foreign policy.

The sins of the father and all aside, libertarians are not necessarily isolationists.  I'm not sure I'm a good representative in this regard myself.  Based on the information and understanding I had at the time, I was in favor of the invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan.  I have never, in my defense, been in favor of "nation-building".  I saw those invasions as part of an overall plan by the Pentagon to isolate and pressure Iran.  Iran has been a problem since Jimmy Carter sold the Shah down the river and let an ally became an antagonistic Islam "republic" -- you know, sort of like Obama and Clinton did with Egypt.  Libya was less of an ally but certainly not any longer a threat.  The surrender of WMD's by Gaddafi had been one of the few positives resulting from our Iraq invasion.

I was wrong to trust the military and the political class in this country, and the longer and more I am treated like a potential terrorist myself lest the government be accused of profiling by the very people who need to be profiled, the more I regret that trust.  Did we need to retaliate against Al-Qaeda for the WTC and Pentagon attacks?  I think we did, and I think most libertarians understand that now and understood at the time, though it is ever more evident that the response path chosen was not the best alternative.   

Libertarians, especially the small 'l' variety, are no more exclusively isolationists than neo-cons are exclusively warmongers.  It's a different philosophy and approach to an obvious problem. 

Here's Simon how starts out: 

Being an early frontrunner for a presidential nomination is not always a good thing and Sen. Rand Paul acknowledged as much the other night on Greta Van Susteren’s show. He must have channeled his inner Nostradamus because not more than a day later a man named Putin made his move on Ukraine. He could end up Paul’s worst nightmare.

This invasion could be a nightmare for libertarians like Rand Paul, but it could also be a wet-dream for neo-cons.  As inconvenient as Putin's invasion of Crimea is for some, it is extremely convenient for others. 

The next thing somebody will bring up is the treaty we have with Ukraine.  What they are talking about is the 1994 Budapest Diplomatic Memorandum that acknowledged the territorial integrity of the newly-formed Republic of Ukraine in exchange for surrender of the nuclear weapons within its boundaries.  The signatories of this diplomatic memorandum were Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.  This was not a treaty ratified by the Senate, and, as the linked article states, the Memorandum can be used as justification for actions by the U.S., but it hardly compels our country to take any action. 

It's signed by Russia.  Russia is just as "obligated" to abide by it as we are.  Ukraine did their part in surrendering their nukes.  Looks like a local dispute to me.  National interest trumps a diplomatic memorandum.  It is not in our national interest to get involved in any way, though it could that the business of war would benefit some economies, financial institutions, and international bankers.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Malicious or Merely Stupid?

Back on January 4, 2014, at a Yakima, WA, car wash, a man with small amounts of some drugs in his system, Rocendo Arias, had fallen asleep in his car with an Airsoft pellet pistol in his lap. The vehicle was spotted by Officer Casey Gillette:

According to the report, Gillette was on patrol, accompanied by his fiancee, Neila Bahadar, when they drove past the car wash and saw a silver Volkswagen Passat parked near the car wash’s vacuum cleaners around 2 a.m. Bahadar was participating in a “ride along,” a regular practice permitted by the department that allows civilians an opportunity to see how police operate.
Almost an hour after first spotting the car, Gillette saw it again and decided to investigate.

Gillette looked through the tinted window on the driver's side then went around and opened the passenger side door.  According to the report, Arias, who had been asleep or passed out, awoke and "lunged" at Gillette while pointing the Airsoft toy at him.  Gillette shot Arias through the head.

I don't have any problem with the officer responding to being "lunged at" with what appeared to be a weapon by firing his weapon.  But how stupid does a cop have to be not to rap on the window on the driver's side?  For all Gillette knew, Arias had pulled up and stopped because he needed sleep and didn't want to endanger people on the street.

Open my car door in that situation, and see what I do.  I would have probably had my doors locked, but I've done that on road trips.  You pull in some place well-lighted and take a nap.  Arias probably had his toy gun in his lap because he was afraid. Gillette was afraid, also:

“I was convinced I was about to be shot, and I reacted by shooting once, then three more rounds,” Gillette wrote in his statement. “My perception of his actions and my reactions to them occurred within seconds, although now it seems they were simultaneous.”

Gillette’s initial shot struck an inside door post of the car, the report said, while another shot hit Arias in the head and the others struck the car window and the driver’s side door. Washington State Patrol crime-scene investigators found one of Gillette’s bullets 10 days later in the gravel next to where Arias’ car was parked, according to the report.
He dumped four rounds at the guy -- one fatal.  No shot was ever fired at Officer Gillette because, of course, Mr. Arias was "armed" with a somewhat realistic looking toy.

When one of my nephews was about four or five years old, he walked up on one of my dad's retired hounds.  The old dog was mostly blind and deaf, stove-up from a lifetime of chasing coyotes in Oklahoma and Missouri, and he was sleeping in a sunny spot in the yard.  My nephew was dragging around a halter lead, and he hit the old dog with the knotted end.  Startled, the dog jerked up and snapped toward the perceived threat, biting through my nephew's cheek.

Oddly enough, Dad didn't offer to put the dog down.  He told his squalling grandson to leave his hounds alone when they were asleep.

Ten minutes before Officer Gillette gunned down an unarmed man, Washington State Trooper Sarah Storms had seen Arias' vehicle while washing her cruiser.  What was her response?
... Storms saw Arias’ car, shone her flashlight on it and determined that Arias was napping. She chose to leave him alone and left before Gillette arrived.
Of course, she wasn't trying to impress her girlfriend. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Prohibition and Unintended Consequences

Mark Thornton is a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute.  Twenty-some years ago he wrote a book called The Economics of ProhibitionHit this link to read the transcript of an interview by the Daily Bell on the Mises Economics Blog.

Thornton is a believer in the Iron Law of Prohibition, which posits, according to Wikipedia, that restrictions and prohibitions of substances result in increasing potency of the banned products.  One of the arguments for continued enforcement of laws against marijuana is that modern marijuana is much higher in THC content than the reefer that was around fifty years ago.  If you are a smuggler, smaller amounts of more potent contraband are easier and more profitable to distribute.

The Daily Bell also asked why prohibition is so attractive to the ruling elites.  Thornton replies:

The power to prohibit the consumption of a product gives the State an entry to controlling the production and consumption of just about anything. If the State can prohibit alcohol as a dangerous product, then it can prohibit dangerous books or anything else. This is what the ruling elites want. They don’t want restrictions on their power based on natural rights, the Constitution, or anything else. They have two weapons to destroy the concept of America and our rights. They use fear and “patriotism” against us.

I drink coffee.  I don't drink alcohol at all any more.  I never used tobacco.  I quit smoking dope before I quit drinking.  I can't remember the last time I took an aspirin or other NSAID.  I have no use for drugs, except caffeine.  But prohibition isn't about the drugs or the drink.  It's about the control.  I think prostitution is sick, and I certainly don't want to visit a prostitute or go to a strip club.  I've never even been inside a Hooters and have no plans to go.  I hate chicken.  The difference between me and the prohibitions is not that I am immoral, and they are moral. 

To stop prosecuting and giving the state power over the lives of people -- in effect, enslaving those who do things we think are wrong is not the same as approving those behaviors.  The "slippery slope" is not toward permissiveness but toward collectivism and loss of freedom.  Thornton explains the positive origins of rules and restrictions:

Well, it is basically that prohibitions in our daily lives are good things that we eventually recognize, as mature people, are good for us. I’m not talking about government prohibitions here. I’m referring to the rules that good parents require of their children. “You are not permitted to play until your homework is done and your room is clean.” It also refers to commercial rules such as “No shoes, no service.” Or it could be a rule that there is no smoking or talking on cell phones allowed at your place of worship. These prohibitions are easily enforced and benefit the greater good in many ways, plus they are voluntary in the sense that you choose either to smoke or to pray. Some people just don’t realize that such rules of conduct cannot carry over to the larger political society.
Emphasis on that last sentence added by me.  Rules and prohibitions are good -- so long as they are parental, individual, private, local, etc.   It's when society takes a more general approach and decides to move personal and moral prohibitions to state and national laws that we get into trouble. 

Libertarians are not anarchists.  We don't need to do away with all laws.  We do need to do away with a lot of them.  No one is going to argue that theft, rape, and murder need to be legalized.  All libertarians believe in the sanctity of private property.  We obviously need, in a modern society, a legal system and statutes to protect property rights and to deal with thugs and psychopaths and the like.  What we don't need are federal laws on the content of local school lunch menus or state laws prosecuting Christians for refusing to bake cakes or laws telling individuals what they can or cannot ingest on their own property. 

Oh, but the prohibitions say, what about the people who get drunk in public and cause problems or drive under the influence?  You can have laws against disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, and we have traffic laws and laws to deal with those who act negligently and irresponsibly or maliciously to injure others or damage or destroy the property of others.

Prohibition is nearly as stupid as a hate crime law.  Hate crime laws seek to punish thought crimes.  Why not stick with punishing the behavior that you wish to have extinguished?  Assault and murder can be illegal without making it about anything else, and we always take intent into account anyway. 

Fewer laws and better laws and more agreement make for a better and more moral society.  The proliferation of laws that have no solid moral basis along with inconsistent, often "class-based" enforcement (Kennedys) can cause a loss of respect for the law and a loss of clarity about what is right and wrong.  Being legal does not making something right, ethical, or moral.  And, sometimes, moral and righteous things are deemed illegal by an out-of-control police state.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blinding Us With Science

I know, it's Fox News, (via Denninger) but I also know a little about peer reviewing documents.  I peer review software designs all the time as well as having mine peer reviewed.  If an engineer follows the standard format and takes an understandable approach, designs are usually approved.

I've watched probably a grand total of ten minutes of the show "Big Bang Theory" which plays physicist and other geek stereotypes for laughs.  These are stereotypes because they have a bit of truth to them, but the average scientist is not a genius.  He or she is a worker whose IQ is within a standard deviation of the average, on the right, obviously, or they'd never get through grad school.  They are generally disciplined, motivated, intelligent individuals.  They tend to know a lot about a fairly narrow field of endeavor.  That's were the stereotypes come in.

There are physicists of various stripes and mathematicians who have a wide range of interests and are under the extreme right hand tail of the bell curve.  But there are also CEOs, rodeo cowboys, and used car salesmen up there. 

This brings us to the real point.  Intelligence and integrity do not always correlate well.  A person can be quite intelligent and have no moral grounding whatsoever.  Does the name "Bill Clinton" ring any bells?   Clinton is a bright man.  He has the morals of stray dog. 

Scientists who publish papers in peer-reviewed journals and do research in various fields are going to have above average intelligence.  There's no guarantee that they have above average morals or ethics.  They want, like most of us, to receive credit and to be compensated for their work.  Many want to advance in their fields.  Some are dedicated to a cause, to solving some problem for the good of humanity.  Most are dedicated to keeping their jobs and paychecks and doing well for themselves. 

How do I know this?  I know human nature.  I like my job because I find the work interesting and challenging.  I used to joke that I would write code even if they didn't pay me -- and I probably would, but it would be different code under different circumstances. 

In academic fields, published research brings in money from the government and from foundations.  The sources of the money expect it to fund more research and more publication.  So, one, as they say, publishes, or perishes for want of funds.  What does a person do if the results aren't conclusive or don't look too impressive or are perhaps not what one's patrons would like to see?  One finagles, jiggles the test tube, so to speak. 

Science is great.  It will insist that it is self-correcting and self-policing.  That's probably true in the long run.  In the shorter term, vested interests, professional reputations, and personal ambitions often take precedence over the truth. 

A good scientist is always skeptical, especially of his own results.  We should be science skeptics, too.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hurting People Should Be Against the Law

Xinjiang separatists are blamed for an attack with edged weapons that killed 29 and injured 130.  The writers at the Guardian can't be expected to be good at simple arithmetic, but equating this terrorist attack with 9/11 is a bit of a stretch.  It's closer, in orders of magnitude, to the murder of soldiers at Fort Hood by a Muslim traitor or the Boston Marathon bombing.  Still, in general, all these incidents are bad people trying to get their way through fear-inducing mayhem -- tactically maiming and murdering innocent people going about their business and routine activities.

I certainly do not want to make light of this incident.  A young women, Qiao Yunao, described the event with surreal details:

"I saw two attackers, both men, one with a watermelon knife and the other with a fruit knife. They were running and chopping whoever they could."

Pressure cookers, box-cutters, fruit knives:  it's the minds of the perpetrators, the choices they make that kill and destroy, what is in their hearts not what they have in their hands.  I suppose we could try to pass laws against selfishness, greed, envy, anger, and the like.  I think, though, progress is unlikely except at the individual level through strong and traditional families.   

Human nature is not always pretty or peaceful or innocent.  There is wheat, and there are weeds.  Apart from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have my doubts how successful efforts to change that old nature will be.