Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Still Trying to Make Hay.with the "Shipping Fallen Soldiers as Freight" Meme

Last December I got into a urination contest with Jack Cluth, proprietor of The People's Republic of Seabrook over his apparent outrage that, well as the original story put it:
Family Upset Over Soldier's Body Arriving As Freight

Bodies Sent To Families On Commercial Airliners

SAN DIEGO -- There's controversy over how the military is transporting the bodies of service members killed overseas, 10News reported.

A local family said fallen soldiers and Marines deserve better and that one would think our war heroes are being transported with dignity, care and respect. It said one would think upon arrival in their hometowns they are greeted with honor. But unfortunately, the family said that is just not the case.

Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.

But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.

John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew John Holley, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight.
You can read the rest of the piece for yourself. There's even a video link of the story apparently showing a body being unloaded from a commercial aircraft.

Jack was outraged. OUTRAGED!
OK, let’s imagine something for just a second. Let’s say that Bill Clinton was still in office. And let’s say that the bodies of dead American soldiers were being shipped to their families as freight, stuffed in the cargo hold of a plane along with the luggage?

If Republicans were to get wind of this sort of Democratic perfidy, CAN YOU IMAGINE THE WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH, AND THE PEALS OF RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION that would be raining down upon a Democratic Administration? And guess what? They’d have a damn good point. So why then is it acceptable for Our Glorious Leader’s Administration to be shipping the bodies of fallen soldiers as they would Aunt Ethel’s luggage? It’s simple, really; because Democrats simply lack the cojones to to raise Hell and demand that this disrespect stop IMMEDIATELY.
Yes, Jack was outraged that the Democrats hadn't raised hell over this disrespect, thus getting themselves some much-needed positive press. After all, Clinton (blessed be his name) would NEVER have done anything so disrespectful!

But he did. The government always has. Bodies are shipped as air cargo via commercial carrier - just like they did your great-aunt Melba when it was time to send her body home. Was that disrepectful of her?

John Holley, father of Matthew Holly, protested:
What do you mean civilian aircraft? Why isn't he flying into Miramar or North Island and having the military handle, you know, the military can handle the military. I mean he's a war hero for crying out loud. If it was the President or some general or somebody like that, this wouldn't be occurring.
No, probably not. But your son isn't a general or the president. He's a soldier. As I explained in the earlier post, bodies are shipped home via air cargo - with military escort. This is done for several reasons. First, I imagine, is economy. Should the military send all remains to the nearest military air base, as Mr. Holley asked? Should they be on a dedicated cargo aircraft? Wouldn't it be just as "disrespectful" to ship the body on a military plane otherwise full of spare parts, mail, or other cargo? What if the parents of the fallen soldier don't live anywhere near a military air base? Or should the military dedicate a C-37 (the military version of the Grumman Gulfstream V) for the deceased and his entourage? Wouldn't somebody then complain about the astronomical expense?

The fact is, soldiers are shipped home honorably. Your grandmother may go back to old Virginnie as air cargo to be met by the local undertaker, but our honored military dead get an escort to ensure that they are treated properly. Noplace is this better described than by The Rocky Mountain News in their absolutely outstanding and emotional piece "Final Salute," which I strongly recommend you read if you haven't already. Be prepared to spend some time, and bring a hanky.

Well, once again, the "disrespectful treatment" meme has raised its ugly head. On Wednesday the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle published a "guest essay" decrying this same practice. Cynthia Hoag penned the essay after reporting that she saw a flag-draped coffin come down the baggage conveyor out of the cargo hold, under the observation of the escorting soldier, and then she watched it
disappear into the cart with the rest of the luggage. The waiting soldier stayed with the casket and rode in the cart as they pulled away.
She was shocked! Shocked, I say!

Well, her essay stirred up some controversy. In today's edition there was a story saying that the Army was probing the report, but Northwest Airlines was saying they did everything according to procedure. The most interesting thing about the story, though, wasn't the story. It was the comments. Like this one by "Reader11722":
This administration doesn't care how the soldiers are treated when they are alive (i.e., improper vests and inadequate protection on Humvees), why would they care in death? This lady is probably 100% correct and the misdeeds of this administration are about to worsen. However, Iraq is a bloody diversion. As the army attacks Iraq, the US gov't erodes rights at home by suspending habeas corpus, stealing private lands, banning books like "America Deceived" from Amazon, rigging elections, conducting warrantless wiretaps and starting 2 illegal wars based on lies. Soon, another US false-flag operation will occur (sinking of an Aircraft Carrier by Mossad) and the US will invade Iran (on behalf of Israel) costing more American lives.
Yes, the moonbats were attracted to the light! (And make sure you take a gander at the book he's hawking.) Another, "rwb100":
Boy. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill!! The lady was appalled at seeing a flag draped coffin on a baggage cart? What I want to know is why she wasn't appalled at the fact that the soldier was even in the coffin in the first place. If you want to be appalled at something, be appalled at that!! Be appalled that our fearless leader, King George The Pea Brained, had the audacity, tumerity, and unmitigated gall to get us into this senseless war in the first place. And as for one comment I read about treating our "fallen military heroes" this way, well, as far as I am concerned, anyone who voluntarily signs up for the military, knowing full well that it just might mean having to go to war, is an idiot, not a hero. Especially those who volunteered after this war was started, with the express intent of going to Iraq. War is never the right answer to any problem, anywhere, anytime. Never!!! Now I know all of you red state republican flag waving lemmings out there probably have steam spewing out of your ears right about now, but if you would all just pull your heads out of your collective anal orifices and take a good look around, you will no doubt see as clearly as I do that you have all been sold a bill of goods by the current administration. George Bush is by far the stupidest president that this country has ever had, not to mention the most dangerous. By comparison, he makes Nixon look great! Maybe you remember immediately after 9/11 how America had the sympathies of pretty much the entire world. Everyone was in our corner then, but Bush has, in just a few short years, completely reversed world opinion about us. We are hated and reviled the world over, thanks to the backwards, mean-spirited, and paranoid policies of the Bush administration, and the sooner we all wake up and tell them NO MORE!!!!! , the better off we all will be. So again , I say WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!! End this bloody war now, and then we won't have to see any more flag draped coffins on conveyor belts, baggage carts, or anywhere else for that matter. Now, what a wonderful world that would be!
Had to archive that one for posterity.

On a more sober note, MJL posted:
Last December I was waiting to board a flight from Atlanta to San Antonio. I looked out the window at my plane and noticed a large box being loaded into the cargo hold. I wondered what it was and then noticed a soldier standing at attention, watching the box move up the conveyor. I looked around...it was cold, freezing rain outside, and typically hectic inside the airport terminal. I couldn't see anyone who had noticed or was watching besides the soldier, the baggage handlers, and myself. After we were in the air the first announcement the pilot made was regarding the fallen soldier's remains and the accompanying soldier. In this case I saw nothing but quiet, subdued respect.
"Mudflap" posted:
I worked for 20 years as a customer service agent. I have worked on the ramp, inside, the warehouse and baggage service. The coffin is too big to put in a regular baggage cart. It is brought to the warehouse where freight is prepared for shipping. It is put on a open cart and does not carry extra baggage, unless it was the military's member luggage that was accompanying the coffin. It is taken over to the freight house where the vehicle can pick it up. It has to come off the plane on the conveyor belt. It is heavy and long, and the plane sits off the ground quite a bit. There also has to be enough people to be able to lift it on and off the cart. I find the story hard to believe. In all my years at the airport, nothing but respect is paid to a coffin weather it be civilian or military.
"USAF2T2" chimed in:
As an Air Force Transportation Specialist, we handle the human remains of fallen soldiers within specific guidelines ordered by Air Force Regulations. They do return in "transfer cases" but are carefully placed level, with the heads stowed towards the nose of the aircraft - the head ALWAYS higher than the feet. NO OTHER CARGO is loaded on top of remains' transfer cases. When they arrive at a terminal such as Dover AFB, human remains are stored in a secure area and separated from other cargo. At that point the shipment is made available to the receiving individual or agency.

So from the military's point of view, as a RULE, we handle all with care and respect.
Do they also travel in commercial baggage area? Of course they would with they(sic) same rules applied. BTW, the baggage area is not a bad place to travel in (many pets travel that way) and when you consider how annoying some passengers are, it’s probably more preferable.

At any rate, the receiving agency is responsible for the remains once released. Since the reporter of this "story" did a poor job of doing his journalistic duty of investigating and getting the facts, all we have is a "story" which, as we know, can be as fictional as "The 3 Little Pigs". But then had he dug into the story and found the truth, we wouldn't be here on this site reading about it. Such is modern news, entertainment (to sell more papers/ad space) at the expense of a few.

May God Bless the family of Army Sgt. 1st Class Tony Knier especially at this time of the year when the rest of us sit around the tree and enjoy our families. Sgt. Knier truly sacrificed his life (as others) so that our children and we can continue OUR traditions and way of life; not one forced upon us by radical Islamics.
Now there's a voice of reason. Finally, I'll select the post by "gvenema" though there are pages more:
I don't understand the outrage, Beenthere is correct.

I worked the Ramp 10 years ago in Minneapolis. There are no special carts for Human Remains. There is no special unloading crane painted red white and blue just for military personnel. The ramp agents have to use the equipment they have. How else are the remains supposed to be removed from the aircraft?

The outrage is over the remains being unloaded and placed into a cart.

From the article:
Northwest Airlines, on which the casket was flown, said in a statement tonight that a military escort stood at attention as three airline agents transferred the casket from the aircraft to an empty cart, then closed the privacy curtains. Northwest said it complied with all military and airline procedures.

There isn't even a real disagreement on what happened. I guess people expect a band playing stars and stripes to follow around every casket until the funeral.
That's how it appears to me.

It also appears that this is just another opportunity for the Left and Right to scream at each other. Reading the six pages of commentary, that's much the impression I got. This comment by "aki009" said it well:
I have to say that we live in a day and age where I find myself having to question all the data that is being presented to me from essentially any source. I had to add photography to the list of things to question thanks to Reuters, UPI and others with their contributors who took a free hand to "enhance" images. Unfortunately such doubt can cause something genuine to fall into the questionable category.

Perhaps some day various forms of media will regain my trust.

In the meantime, ill-educated swipes from the left _and_ the right simply undermine any remaining trust I have in any form of communication from either side. Though from my perspective it seems that the left fabricates a significantly larger volume of "information" than the right.
Doesn't it, though?

The Top 100 Things to do as an Evil Overlord.

Via the webcomic A Miracle of Science (which I quite enjoy), I bring you The Evil Overlord List, a hilarious take on what to do if you ever become an Evil Overlord. First up, The Top 100 Things I'd do if I Ever Became an Evil Overlord. A sample:
4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.

5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."

8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.

9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.

11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.

12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.

13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.

14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
Also included are an additional 51 really good ideas, such as:
109. I will see to it that plucky young lads/lasses in strange clothes and with the accent of an outlander shall REGULARLY climb some monument in the main square of my capital and denounce me, claim to know the secret of my power, rally the masses to rebellion, etc. That way, the citizens will be jaded in case the real thing ever comes along.
And he's taking suggestions, too. Pretty evil, eh?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Militarization of the Police.

Instapundit links to a Wall Street Journal column by a retired officer on the recent shooting of three black men in an automobile. Some fifty shots were fired by three officers. According to a link provided by Zendo Deb, one officer fired thirty-one rounds - 15 +1 in the chamber, and another full magazine. According to the WSJ piece, the police opened fire after the driver of the vehicle struck a plainclothes police officer who had identified himself.

A week ago Tuesday, three Atlanta police officers performed a raid of a 92 year-old woman's home on a drug warrant. She opened fire, hitting the three officers in their extremities. They killed her. At most, minor amounts of marijuana were found on her property. There are serious questions about the way the warrant was obtained and the "confidential informant" who gave the evidence for it. This is hardly an unusual occurrence. Radly Balko is probably the best source for in-depth coverage of stories like this one, and others such as Cheryl Ann Stillwell's, or Cheryl Lynn Noel's; or just look at his map of botched raids.

A commenter to Instapundit's piece said:
Police officers carry "high-caliber" semi-automatics nowadays because they should have access to the best tools possible when they are really needed. Trust me on this: even the most routine call is an "extraordinary circumstance" to a cop in trouble.
I have no problem with this. If my life was on the line and I carried a gun as part of my professional duties, I'd want it to be semi-automatic and in a caliber starting with .4 myself. I certainly agree that the .38 Special is not really up to the task, nor is the standard-issue "riot gun" the best long arm an officer might use.

My problem is with the tactics and the attitude.

A lot of cop-bashing goes on over at AR15.com, where more than a few members are uniformed and plainclothes police officers. A lot of comments about "going home safe at the end of the shift" get bandied about, like a scene from "Hill Street Blues." Cops go dressed in body armor and face-masks. They crash through doors with battering rams in "dynamic entries" ostensibly for their own protection. I realize that this can be a necessity. It should not be standard procedure.

Glenn Reynolds also has a piece up at Popular Mechanics which largely makes the point I want to here:
Dress like a soldier and you think you're at war. And, in wartime, civil liberties—or possible innocence—of the people on "the other side" don't come up much. But the police aren't at war with the citizens they serve, or at least they're not supposed to be.
I'm fond of quoting Sir Robert Peel's Nine Principles of Modern Policing:
1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

2. The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.

3. Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.

4. The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.

5. Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

6. Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.

7. Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8. Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
It would seem that we've abandoned at least a couple of those principles. Specifically, we've abandoned #7, and #6 seems to be on the wane. The public are now "civilians," and the police apparently no longer see themselves as also civilians. But they are. The police are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they're under the same civil law as the rest of us - except they get away with a lot more than we do, because they're "professionals," I guess. To a lot of cops, the rest of us don't even seem to qualify as amateurs.

Most of the militarization of the police, I think, can be placed at the feet of the War on (some) Drugs™. Dealing with heavily-armed drug dealers meant that cops had to up-arm and "go tactical" too, but it's greatly increased the police perception of the citizenry as "them" instead of "us." I don't want to disarm the police. I don't think it would be a good idea to strip them of their AR15 rifles, MP-5 submachineguns, 15-round Glock pistols, body armor, etc. But I would prefer it if their attitude was less "as long as I go home safe at the end of the shift" and more like the Coast Guard's "We have to go out. We don't have to come back." After all, their job is supposed to be "To Protect and Serve," not "Kill People and Break Things."

UPDATE: Say Uncle prefers the term "Ninjafication" to "Militarization," and makes a good argument for the difference.

OK, So What Happened to Linda Riss?.

The site has been getting hits all day from Google searches for "Burt Pugach AND Linda Riss" or just "Linda Riss" or some variation. Did he finally kill her? Google News doesn't say.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Orson Scott Card on Gun Control.

I'm a fan of author and professor Orson Scott Card. I admit that he's hit-and-miss with me as a novelist. I greatly enjoyed most of his "Enderverse" novels (excepting Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead), and some of his other works are quite good, but some leave me unmoved. I generally like what he writes in his "Ornery American" columns. I strongly recommend this one, for example: Who Was On Watch As the Dark Age Approached? I've linked to or quoted something he's written a half-dozen times, most recently here, and there's this quote I liked very much from his novel Shadow of the Giant:
Islam has never learned how to be a religion. It's a tyranny by its very nature. Until it learns to let the door swing both ways, and permit Muslims to decide not to be Muslims without penalty, then the world has no choice but to fight against it in order to be free.
Mr. Card has a new novel out today, Empire, on the subject of a new American civil war. (The first quarter of the book is available online. Read Chapter Two, I beg you.) Such a war has been an ongoing topic here at TSM, most recently revisited in Reasonable People, so this is a book I will most definitely be buying in the not-too-distant future. Mr. Card is now doing his rounds of interviews in support of the book release. He was on local radio Monday morning, and today he was interviewed by Mr. and Mrs. Instapundit in a 40+ minute podcast that ranged over a wide array of topics, mostly not the book. That interview is linked here, and I strongly recommend you listen to it as the pieces I have transcribed from it are taken just a bit out of context. It doesn't sound as bad when you hear the entire discussion. Plus, it's a damned interesting discussion.

Here's the pertinent portion, starting about 2/3rds of the way through the interview:
The real problem here is that both parties are pushing towards ideological purity. We have the movement within the Republican party of getting rid of the RINOs - the Republicans in Name Only. We have Democrats who actually spurned Joseph Lieberman because he supported the war. Which means what, they'dve gotten rid of Scoop Jackson, Patrick Moynihan, the greatest Democrats, the reason I became a Democrat? The answer is "Yes, of course they would."

But when people insist on ideological purity, with incoherent ideologies - and that's what really both parties offer us right now - incoherent ideologies, there's no reason why the fact that I oppose the death penalty should mean that I must therefore support freely available abortions. Simply no reason why those should be related. There's no reason in the world why the fact that I support a fairly strong program of gun control should in any way imply that I support a complete ban on, on, uh, personally owned weapons. No reason why the fact that I support gun control should say anything about how I feel about free-market capitalism. Um, et cetera, et cetera. What do they have to do with each other? And above all, what does being liberal have to do with opposing, or, uh, supporting the war against terror? Our enemies in the war against terror are so anti-liberal that you would think it would be liberals leaping to protect the world from these monstrous ideologies.

--

A lot of it has to do with where the money is coming from in politics today. We have hard-core ideologues, ideologically-driven groups, that contribute money according to their issue. And that's where these (political) packages were assembled. The NRA knows that Republicans are on their side. If they ever find a Republican who isn't, of course, they'll jettison him and he won't get their money. They'll support his opponent, if his opponent is willing to say that he's against any kind of gun control. So we have a group that is a one-issue ideological group, pumping money into campaigns. And, so, the Republican party has become essentially owned by one team of unrelated ideologues who drive them in one direction and the Democratic party is supported by their team of one-issue ideologues who don't have anything to do with each other, but they've picked their party. And so the parties then reflect where the money's coming from.

--

When you begin to feel that there is no political recourse, where do you turn? What do you do?

--

The people in Yugoslavia, when Yugoslavia started breaking apart into the different republics, nobody expected there to be a war. After all, the different groups that ended up fighting were intermarrying at an astonishingly high rate. It was if the differences were irrelevant. The populations were scattered among each other, it's why they needed to have ethnic cleansing. It was because you had Muslims and Christians living side by side, Serbs and Croats throughout the country. It looked like a civil war-proof society. But when one team decided to start shooting, they had to sort themselves out, divide themselves into their various territories. It became ugly very quickly and you ended up with genocidal acts. Why? Because the people who were the angriest and the most murderous felt completely justified. They were being lied to. They were being told that the other guys were monsters who were doing hideous, terrible things, and they also wanted to believe those lies, because it made them feel so justified in their rage. So satisfied at the thought that they could do something about it. Well, what they did about it was they pulled out all those wonderful unregistered guns and started shooting.
Well, by Mr. Card's definition I would have to say that I'm an ideologue. If you want to go so far: a fanatic - defined as "won't change his mind, won't change the topic, and won't shut up."

It would appear that ideologues are a bad thing in Mr. Card's estimation, and perhaps they are. I can certainly see his point. But the difference between myself and many, perhaps most ideologues is that I do have a coherent ideology, based on what I've studied. No one's told me to think this way, nor do I blindly follow. I haven't been lied to to make me believe what I believe. (Well, I have been lied to - by both sides - but I can discern the difference and I know which side lies most often and most egregiously, and why.) I'll be the first to agree with him that his stance on gun control in no way means that he must hold a specific opinion on free-market capitalism, or that his opposition to capital punishment must mean a support for abortion. I understand what he's arguing.

Given what he said in the interview though, I gather that the major portion of Mr. Card's "fairly strong program of gun control" must include registration, and most likely licensing. It probably includes restrictions (bans) on particular types of (but not all) firearms. Mr. Card is a reasonable person. As such I believe we could discuss his support for gun control, and I believe that with some time and effort I could, if not convert, certainly alter his position. But Mr. Card is representative of a plurality of the population that holds an incoherent ideology with respect to gun control. It's these people I want to reach. It's these people I write most of these essays for.

I received an email the other day from a gentleman across the pond who wrote:
I've been reading through various pages of your blog for most of the day and I just read the "Invitation to my Readers" July 2003 entry and decided to write a quick email.

For most of my life I was pro-gun-control. I'm English, so this view was completely uncontroversial and I don't think I ever conversed with anybody who disagreed with it. 'Bowling for Columbine' was regularly discussed in a "Sheesh, those crazy Americans, eh?" kind of way. Then a couple of years back I starting reading some dissenting opinions. I can't be sure, but I think it was Robert Anton Wilson who started me down this road. There's nothing like somebody you respect espousing ideas you don't to make you look at them anew.

Anyway, every once in a while I'll come back to the subject (living here it's not exactly directly relevant to my life) and each time I do I move closer to the libertarian position. Your blog is a very well-written and balanced description. I find myself agreeing with much of it and, where I don't - I see universal free health care as a great idea, for instance - your writing makes me examine things again.

So thanks for writing it. I get the feeling I'm going to be coming back.
I sincerely hope he does. That's why I write. That's why I debate people here on this blog and anywhere they'll have me.

And I would love a chance to debate Orson Scott Card on the topic of gun control. Registering the Serbian, Croat, Bosniak, Albanian and Macedonian weapons wouldn't have prevented Yugoslavia's meltdown, nor could it prevent civil war here. It could have just made the atrocities even more one-sided. Ask Rudolph J. Rummel.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Can't We Just Ban Liberals from Owning Guns?.

Remember Barry?
I just...I just blink my eyes in amazement everytime this crops up - actually watching people feel the need to carry a concealed weapon in public...

If I were to take a live, armed weapon and carry it on my person, in public, it would eat away at my sanity just as if it were emitting lethal radiation. To know that I carried an instrument of sure and certain death on my person, available and ready to be pulled out and used at a moment's notice to possibly kill...a child. A homeless person. An innocent.

Obviously that is not your intent. You want to protect yourself - maybe that is how you feel in California. But being brought up in Eastern Tennessee I've never once felt the need to protect myself from imminent bodily harm in public. And if I were aware of a location that might be unduly hazardous - a dark alley, a badly lighted parking area - I would avoid it. I've never been mugged, nor can I readily pull up a name of any person I've ever met that's been mugged or even bodily threatened in my whole life.

What scares me most is the arbitrary nature of self-defense. What line must be crossed to signal to you that there is imminent danger or threat? Is it a criminal pulling a gun on you? In which case, unless you're a gunslinger, you're not going to outdraw him. Is it someone pulling a knife? Threatening words? Bad language or rude gestures? Where is that one point where you decide, "Yes, my life or the life of my loved ones is in danger and I must now take it upon myself to take the life of another person." What if the guy is reaching into his jacket, and you are sure, absolutely certain that it is a weapon. You pull your gun and shoot--and see he's reaching for his wallet. Or worse, you miss and hit a child running in the street. Where is that line?

The radiation would rot my brain and I would never be able to live with myself.

Maybe it's different in California. Maybe it's different in Tennessee. Maybe I don't love my family enough...maybe I love them too much. But I know myself, and know that if I surrendered to the paranoia - and I mean that in the most basic sense - there would be no turning back.
At the time I responded:
Barry, I applaud your decision to remain unarmed. I hope, however, that you will get some psychiatric or psychological treatment for your crippling fear of your own lack of control.
In attempting to defend his position, Barry made it worse:
Say I'm eating in a restaurant with my family. The guy in the next table over is carrying a concealed weapon. Someone bumps a waiter who spills hot coffee on his son. Enraged, the guy jumps up and notices either the waiter or the guy who bumped him is black - in his mind, the combination of circumstances: injury to his son, deep-rooted prejudices, you name it, combine to create in his mind a lethal situation. An argument ensues, names are called, nationality and circumstances of birth are questioned. He pulls the weapon and confronts the waiter. From that point on who knows what might happen?
And:
I understand completely that you have the best of intentions, the best training, the best gun money can buy, and the best reasons in the world to want to defend yourself. But I'm sorry, I don't have insight into your character from my vantage point and I can't assume you can be trusted with a gun any more than I can assume you're not going to attack me anyway without a gun.
This is known, in psychological circles, as "projection," defined at this site thusly:
Psychological projection is the phenomenon whereby one projects one's own thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings, and so on onto someone else (usually another person, but psychological projection onto animals, parents, children, neighbors, other drivers, political figures, racial groups, states and countries, also occurs).

According to the theories of Sigmund Freud, psychological projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one "projects" one's own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings, and so on onto someone else (usually another person, but psychological projection onto animals and inanimate objects also occurs).
Well, here's another flippant example (h/t: Outdoor Logic):
Thankful For Restrictive Handgun Laws

I am in the foulest of foul moods. Everyone else is posting about all they are thankful for, but all I am thankful for right now is that I don't own a gun. I'm not mad at anyone in particular, it's just that nothing seems to be going the way I want it to go and I have PMS and have to clean the house before noon tomorrow when 14 people will be here to eat turkey.
Normally I'd rank this up to typical hyperbole but for two things: The title to the post, and the author's self description:
A wife, a mother, and a proud liberal with a temper.
Can't we just ban liberals from owning guns? They seem to be the ones with severe projection and self-control problems. (And I wonder if this post will piss her off?)

ETA: And also hippies?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Close Second:.
Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics - and you'll get ten different answers. But there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on: whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us, it'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes - all of this. All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars. -- Babylon5
Quote of the Month:.
And I repeat: if there is anything that can divert the land of my birth from its current stampede into the Stone Age, it is the widespread dissemination of the thoughts and perceptions that Robert Heinlein has been selling as entertainment since 1939. - Spider Robinson
Via Eclipse Ramblings

Thanksgiving Dinner Was a Success.

A much smaller success than I had envisioned, but a success nonetheless. Normally we have Thanksgiving dinner, actually a late lunch, at my parent's house, then drive to my wife's parent's house to do a repeat. This year a friend of my sister invited everyone from my side of the family over. Well, this time last year we were completing the Great Remodel™, and the kitchen countertops here were 3/4" plywood while we waited for the real thing to be delivered and installed as the last major component of the overhaul of Casa del Baker. I decided that I wanted to do dinner here, and I thought it would be nice to have my wife's family over for it.

So, about 2-1/2 weeks ago I bought a 22 lb. turkey - plenty for everybody, and enough left over for sandwiches and such.

Then I found out that the grandkids would be spending Thanksgiving with their father.

Their mother would be spending it in California.

My wife's parents would be spending it with #1 Son & family, and #2 son would be going with them.

So it was going to be me, my wife, and a 22 lb. turkey.

What the hell. On with the show!

I got up a about 6:00AM this morning, straightened up the kitchen & fired up the dishwasher, made a batch of cornbread for breakfast, listened to some podcasts, read a few posts and some news stories, and then started the Thanksgiving Feast. First, I made a Lemon Chiffon pie and got it into the freezer, sat down & read a couple more things, and wrote a post. Then I started on the bread. I made a batch of dough, set it off to rise, and cleaned the kitchen up from the mess I made doing the cornbread, the pie and the bread dough. (Damn, but I do love the extra-large, extra-deep sink we put in.) Then I took a shower. By the time I was all cleaned up the dough had risen, so I punched it down, divided it in two, and put half in the refrigerator. The other half I rolled out and made into a loaf, put it into a loaf pan, and set it off to rise again.

I then took the turkey, all 22 pounds of it, out of the refrigerator where it had been thawing since Sunday and put it in the sink. A little more screen time, a few more podcasts, and it was time to put the bread in the oven. Once the bread went in it was time to start the turkey preparation. I did the Safeway 2-hour turkey recipe on my mother's recommendation. Prep time was just about the 25 minutes it took to bake the bread, so right about 12:30 the turkey went into the 475º oven. I set the timer for 1 hour and went back to surfing the web. After an hour the bird was starting to turn a very nice dark brown, but the meat thermometer only indicated about 135º so I put some foil over the breast, rotated the pan and set the timer for 30 more minutes. Then I started on the Baker Family Tradition: Dressing Balls. We don't do the stuffing thing (can't anyway when you do the 2-hour turkey), but what we do is prepare bread stuffing formed into spheres about the size of billiard balls using Pepperidge Farms herb-seasoned and cornbread stuffing, onion, celery, rubbed sage and salt, all moistened by the water used to cook the vegetables and about 20 ounces of chicken stock. These get baked in buttered baking dishes for about 20-25 minutes at 375º.

The turkey came out of the oven just after 2:00PM - an hour and a half after it went in. The meat thermometer showed 165º - five degrees warmer than it really needed to be. I covered it with foil and left it to sit, and put in the first batch of dressing balls. (I eat these things almost like popcorn for a couple of days after Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it pays to make a LOT.) Kaoru came home from work right at 2:30 as the first batch of dressing balls came out, so I started prep on the mashed potatoes. Once they were on the stove and boiling, I checked the turkey - 170º, just like they advertised. Then I got the second half of the bread dough out of the refrigerator, divided it up into dinner rolls, and set them off to rise. I was a little later than I'd planned on those. The potatoes came off the stove, I drained, mashed, seasoned & whipped 'em, then covered them and set them off to the side. By this time the rolls had raised some, so I melted a little butter, brushed it over the tops, and into a 400º oven they went. (Like I said, a little late.) Then I opened the only can of the day - green beans - poured 'em into a bowl, seasoned with a little salt & pepper, and popped them into the microwave for a few minutes at a 20% power setting.

I set the table, carved the turkey, (thoroughly cooked, moist juicy and tender) got the food all arranged, and the rolls were STILL not done, but we sat down to eat about 3:30.

Everything was terrific! And it was nice, I must admit, to having Thanksgiving dinner in private with only my wife there to share it. And boy, do we have leftovers!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope the coming year lives up to your dreams, and not down to my expectations.

Not a Thanksgiving Topic.
(But I've got to comment on this one.)

The Washington Post reports on a perfectly typical anti-gun knee-jerk illogical reaction to an episode of gun violence:
More Limits Sought On Civilians' Guns

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006; Page B05


Stung by the shooting deaths of two officers outside a western Fairfax County police station in May, county officials want to push the Virginia General Assembly to ban the carrying of guns into law enforcement buildings by anyone other than authorized personnel.
OK, let me see if I understand the "logic" here: Two officers are shot to death outside a police station, so in order to prevent another occurrence of this type the Virginia General Assembly wants to make it illegal for anyone other than "authorized personnel" to carry a gun INTO a police station?

Anybody besides me see the logical disconnect here?
State law bans weapons in courthouses. But the absence of any prohibition on weapons inside police stations or jails places officers at risk, county officials say. At the request of Fairfax County Police Chief David M. Rohrer, the Board of Supervisors has included a ban in a draft of its legislative program for the 2007 Virginia General Assembly.
Yes, this works SO well with "Gun-free School Zones," doesn't it? Note the difference, though: Police stations are full of armed people. No 20-minute wait for a 9-1-1 response.
The county has made numerous attempts to keep firearms out of government buildings, only to see the initiatives languish in a state legislature loath to restrict the rights of gun owners. But the issue has gained new urgency since the May 8 shootings at the Sully District station in Chantilly.
And here is another example of how our legislators don't trust the law-abiding. After all, the only people who will obey such a law are the law-abiding. If you've decided that you're going to mow down some police officers at their station-house, why would the fact that the General Assembly made taking your gun there illegal even slow you down? What, they're going to tack on an extra five years to your death-penalty sentence?

No, it's just the knee-jerk legislative reaction. "We must DO SOMETHING!" And when the only tool you have is a hammer...
Michael W. Kennedy, a mentally ill 18-year-old, drove to the rear parking lot of the station and fired more than 70 shots with an assault rifle and other weapons. Detective Vicky O. Armel, 40, died that day, along with Kennedy. Officer Michael E. Garbarino, 53, died of his wounds nine days later.
Yep. A new law would have prevented THIS shooting! How does a mentally ill 18-year old acquire an "assault rifle" and other weapons? Didn't he break some laws to do that? Not to mention ripping off 70+ rounds at the police station parking lot and its occupants.
Mary Ann Jennings, a Fairfax police spokeswoman, said Rohrer would not comment on the proposal, the subject of a public hearing before the board yesterday, because it is still in draft form and has not been formally approved by supervisors.
Rohrer further would not comment because he probably thinks the proposal is as idiotic as I do. At least I hope so.
The Sully shooting touched off an intense discussion among county officials about security at public-safety facilities. The measure has stirred opposition by gun rights groups. Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said such a ban would not have prevented Kennedy's assault on the Sully station, which occurred outside the building. He added that police stations have secure areas where only authorized personnel are allowed.

"This whole thing is a non-issue," Van Cleave said. "They're just trying to poke gun owners in the eye."
No, they don't see it that way, Mr. Van Cleave. These are people who think that anyone who likes guns is a psycopath-in-waiting, but a psychopath that can be deterred by another stupid fucking law.

A psychopath unless they collect a government paycheck.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Doubly Evil, Just in Time for Thanksgiving!.

Tonight at precisely 9:17:28PM The Smallest Minority received its 666,666th visitor:

Far out! (Do they still say "Far out!"? Oh, and NO PRIZES! - Sorry.)

Next time HANG AROUND A LITTLE LONGER!

P.S.: Yes, I did sit and stare at Sitemeter until hit number 666,666 was recorded. Actually, I spent the time reading "Sluggy Freelance." I'm up to January 2000 now.




I need a life, in addition to a break.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Well-Educated .32!

That's one of the pictures illustrating this otherwise excellent story on self-defense and concealed-weapons licensing in Memphis. (At least it wasn't described as a .9mm or a 40mm Glock service revolver.) Excerpt:
A 53-year-old Thai woman who works behind the counter of a convenience store in Hickory Hill has been robbed four times. And so she got a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol and formal training.

It comes in handy early one morning just three weeks later when she is doing inventory behind the counter and has the front door locked. As shown on store video, a lone male knocks on the window at 1:45 a.m. He asks if the store is open. She tells him it is, but to pull back the hood on his jacket and she will buzz him in.

He complies and the door unlocks. But as he comes through the door he crouches down and pulls a mask over his face. As soon as he reaches the counter, he pulls a gun and points it at her.

She sees what's coming. She moves to her left and bends down below the counter as his gun comes out. She then rises slightly, still using the counter for cover as much as possible, and has both hands wrapped around the grip of her gun.

She fires one shot. The robber flinches, then turns and flees without firing his gun.

"I think I hit him in the shoulder," she says.

The whole thing takes mere seconds.

"It was like automatic," she explains. "I'm not excited. I don't want to shoot anybody . . . it's just automatic."

Except, it isn't just automatic. It is training combined with instinct and poise.

"After I attend class, I know how to operate," she says late one night at the store, where she still works. "I really trust this gun."

• •

"A gun is morally neutral," says Givens. "It works for a good man; it works for a bad man."

And as the store clerk's story proves, it works best for a trained man (or woman).
Apparently Chris Muir read the same piece:

(h/t Arms and the Law)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another Depressing Thought.

That really cute YouTube video I posted a few days ago? It struck me just a couple of minutes ago that it's almost an allegory.

"Allegory? For what?" you may ask.

For socialism.

Bear with me.

The Kiwi, through superhuman (superkiwi?) effort constructs a world that allows him (her?) to realize its greatest dream. Experiencing the dream is awesome, overwhelming.

Until reality raises its ugly head, as it always must.

If there was a postscript to the film, we'd see the remains of the forest that the Kiwi had to strip to build its dreamworld, and all the creatures whose habitats had been destroyed in the pursuit of that dream.

The only thing that ruins the allegory is that this story was performed by a single Kiwi, and not a flock of them following the dream of a single charismatic leader to their own destruction.

I DO need a break.

In Keeping with My Recent Gloom-n-Doom...

I don't know how I missed this piece when it was originally published, but stumble across it I did, and it rings just a little too plausible for comfort: December 7, 2008. Excerpt:
In 2006 America, tired of War in Iraq, had elected Democrats to modest majorities in both houses of Congress. Representative Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House, third in line for the presidency. In the spring of 2007, on a narrow, party-line vote, Congress, led by Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer refused to authorize spending to continue the war in Iraq, and set September 30, 2007, as the deadline for complete withdrawal of American troops.

President Bush spoke to the country, to the American forces in Iraq, to those who had been there, and to the Iraqi people, to apologize for the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of the American congress and the tragedy he believed would follow after leaving task of nurturing a representative and stable government in Iraq half done, his voice choked, tears running down his stoic face, a betrayal of emotion for which he was resoundingly criticized and denounced in much of America's media.

The level of violence across Iraq immediately subsided, as the Americans began preparations to redeploy back to the States. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised the new Congress for its clear vision and sound judgment. America's Democrats rejoiced and congratulated themselves for bringing peace with honor and ending the illegal war based on lies that George Bush had begun only to enrich his friends in the military-industrial complex, and promised to retake the Presidency in 2008.

At 1000 on September 30, 2007, precisely on schedule, the last C-5A Galaxy carrying the last company of American combat troops in Iraq had roared down the Baghdad runway and lifted into the air. Only a few hundred American technical and military advisers and political liaisons remained in-country.

The Galaxy's wheels had scarcely retracted when Iraq erupted in the real civil war many had feared and foreseen, and which many others had predicted would not happen if only the American imperialists left Iraq. Sunni militias, Shia militias, and Al Qaeda militias ravaged and savaged the country, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis known or suspected to have collaborated with the Americans, killing Shias for being Shias, Sunnis for being Sunnis, Americans for being Americans, and anyone else who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By noon, not one of the American advisers and liaisons left behind remained alive. Many had been beheaded as they screamed. Most of their bodies were dumped in the river and never seen again. In the next thirty days more than a million Iraqis died. The General Assembly of the United Nations voted to condemn the violence, and recessed for lunch and martinis. In America, there was no political will to redeploy back to Iraq. And after a few months of rabid bloodletting, the situation in Iraq calmed to a tense simmer of sporadic violence and political jockeying, punctuated by the occasional assassination, while several million refugees fled the country. Only Kurdistan, in the north, which had thrown up a line of its Peshmurga fighters to keep the southern violence away, remained stable and at relative peace.
RTWT. Note that the original publish date was Oct. 24, 2006.

As Thanksgiving approaches I'm finding it difficult to feel all that thankful. The best I can do at the moment is be thankful that we haven't been nuked.

Yet.

I think I need a break.

UPDATE: Joe Huffman comments.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Indoctrination.

A couple of posts below I linked to An Infuriating Man, an essay by Leo Rosten about economist Milton Friedman. In the post between this one and that one, I mentioned that I fairly recently read the book Conversations with Eric Sevareid: Interviews with Notable Americans. It so happens that Leo Rosten was one of Mr. Sevareid's guests, and that transcript was one in the book. Taped on August 24, 1975, Sevareid introduces Rosten:
"Wisdom," according to Leo Rosten, "is only the capacity to confront intolerable ideas, with composure. Most men debase the pursuit of happiness by transforming it into a foolish pursuit of fun. But where was it promised that the purpose of life is to be happy? To me, the most important thing in life is to matter, to count, to stand for something. In short, to have it make some difference that you lived at all."

--

Leo Rosten has taught at Yale, Stanford, Columbia and the University of California. In addition to all else, he's an astute economist trained at the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. He belongs to an interesting intellectual mutation. He was a New Deal liberal in Franklin Roosevelt's day; today he's a neo-conservative. From old liberal to new conservative is paradoxically a function of aging and changing society. Neo-conservatives don't believe that education or government can determine the total picture of American society.
This is the earliest reference I have seen of the term "neo-conservative." I was a little surprised that it dates back to at least 1975.

The interview begins:
Rosten: We didn't assume thirty years ago that the schools could solve all our problems. We never assumed that politics could solve them. In fact, this country was based on the commanding idea that the politicians should do and what he government should do is make it possible for people to pursue happiness. Now the disenchanted say, "Make me happy!" Schools can't make anyone happy.

Sevareid: What happened? Some of the Supreme Court decisions, some of the rules from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, from the federal government, are going to instruct every high school in every local community what boys and girls can do, what sports they can play at together, and what can or can't be done in the locker room. (Title IX passed in 1972.) This would have made Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin turn in their graves. Why shouldn't local communities have something to say about how children are educated?

Rosten: I think the tide has to turn. The story of the growth of federal power is one of the most lamentable in American history. I think historians of the future will mark 1932 as one of the black years of American history - not that Roosevelt was a bad President, not that he didn't do extraordinary things. His greatest talent was that of a politician. He cemented a society that was falling to pieces in very ugly ways. But what he did was start the pattern by which instead of fixing your community's bridge you wrote to your Congressman and asked him to get Congress to appropriate $28,000 for your bridge - a pattern by which everything is taken care of by federal money. What's wrong with this is that it prevents the most powerful engine mankind has ever known, the free market, from working.

I think we are now beginning to learn that it is foolish to assume that people in Washington know better how to run Alameda County that the men who are farming in Alameda County.
I don't think the lesson stuck.

Rosten on the press:
Sevareid: A long time ago, during the 1930's, you wrote the first real sociological study of the Washington press corps. A lot has changed since then. It's now a vast herd of people. The tone has changed. The press has itself become a great controversial issue. What's the big difference now?

Rosten: The decline of newspapers, the decline of local papers, the pabulumized news leads me to read weekly journals more than ever because they at least put things into perspective. The kind of person who now goes into journalism may also be different.
Now even the weeklies are pabulum, and the dailies are dying from decreasing readership.
Sevareid: The Watergate adventures have something to do with it. Press people have been lured and forced out of their normal roles to a degree. They've become actors in the play themselves. They're writing about each other. There also is a new level of howling monkeys at news conferences. They've given the press a pretty bad image with lots of people. Some reporters seem to think they're prosecuting attorneys at every encounter with officials. They don't understand that civility is not the enemy of freedom; it's an ally.

Rosten: I have the feeling that the editorial pages of this country, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, are repeating the cliches of the 1940's and 1950's. "If a government program fails it's because not enough money was put into it. Let's put more money into it!" And more and more money is poured down the rat hole.
Or, as Steven Den Beste put it, cognitive dissonance leading to "escalation of failure."

And, finally, Leo Rosten on education:
Sevareid: Leo, you've written about everything, thought about everything, studied everything. You're a great generalist, which is not much in fashion any more. What's happened to the knowledge industry? Sociologists, economists, psychologists, psychiatrists, seem rather bankrupt. Have we overburdened the human mind with too many facts? Vocabulary seems to have outrun knowledge, which has outrun wisdom. Where do we turn?

Rosten: We've always gone on the assumption (a good one) that education will liberate the human mind or the human spirit. There's a second assumption that's forgotten. Some people are meant to be educated and to learn and to enjoy the uses of the mind. Some people are meant to paint. Some people are meant to draw castles in the sand and make them into sculpture. Some people love to prune trees and gardens. What we have done is assume that everyone can potentially become an intellectual. We've confused learning with schooling.

It's absolutely absurd that in this country today there should be seven million youngsters going to college. There are not seven million people who want to read Plato or Aristotle or Montesquieu. And there's no reason why they should. We have failed to see that there aren't enough jobs for those who learn esoteric things. For a while there was a big fling on learning Swahili in New York. Lots of kids were studying it because it was part of the Black movement, the idea of Black identity, Black liberation. It so happens that Swahili was the language of the Arab slave traders. In any event, what good does it do to know Swahili? I don't mean "good" simply in terms of economics. What sort of good does it do?

When you're young, when your mind and spirit are like a sponge, there is no better time to learn certain things and there is no worse time to learn certain things. I would abolish the study of some courses except for students aged thirty and above.

I was lucky as a child of the depression. I couldn't get a job for three years. I was lonely and miserable. At the end of those three years, because I was desperate, I went back to school. I was older than my classmates, I had learned something. I had learned how hard it is to walk all day long, trying to earn a dollar. I had learned how important it is to save, to appraise people, to figure out if this or that guy can be trusted or not trusted. This is what life and the world are about.

We're practically using the colleges as a dump into which to put youngsters we do not know what to do with. There are today 45 million people between the age of roughly 7 and 24. Their parents don't know what to do with them. They want them to go to college and they often think that they're being trained for jobs. But they're not getting training for useful employment.

Someone has said that education is what remains after everything you've learned is forgotten. The purpose of educating young people is not only to illuminate their spirit and enrich their memory bank but to teach them the pleasures of thinking and reading. How do you use the mind? As a teacher, I always was astonished by the number of people in the classroom who wanted to learn as against those who just wanted to pass. I took pride in my ability to communicate. Generally "communicate" meant one thing. Now the young think "communicate" means "Agree with me!"
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But here's the kicker:
Rosten: The student rebellions of the 1960's exposed the fact that our entire educational system has forgotten the most important thing it can do prior to college: indoctrinate. I believe in the indoctrination of moral values. There's a lot to be said for being good and kind and decent. You owe a duty to those who have taken care of you. You owe a duty to whatever it is that God or fate gave you - to use your brain or your heart. It's senseless to whine, to blame society for every grievance, or to assume that the presence of a hammer means you have to go out to smash things.

The young want everything. They think they can get everything swiftly and painlessly. They are far too confident. They don't know what their problems are, not really. They talk too much. They demand too much. Their ideas have not been tempered by the hard facts of reality. They're idealists, but they don't sense that it's the easiest thing in the world to be an idealist. It doesn't take any brains. This was said by Aristotle 2300 years ago. Mencken once said that an idealist is someone who, upon observing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, assumes that it will also make better soup.
To some extent, Rosten sounds like all elders complaining about youths:
Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders, and love chatter in places of exercise. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. they contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers. - Socrates
Too, I am ambivalent on the topic of "indoctrination." My problem is with what that indoctrination entails. Rosten objects to the failure of the educational system to indoctrinate moral values. I'd say it still does. It just doesn't indoctrinate goodness, kindness, and decency anymore. It indoctrinates "multicuturalism," "tolerance," "sensitivity," "fairness," "socialism," and "self-esteem." It fails to instruct in history, civics, ethics, mathematics, English, or for that matter, job skills. The education system receives "young skulls full of mush" and processes them right on through, sending them into the world with what Ayn Rand described as "a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears."

The reasons for this are myriad. Diane Ravitch puts part of the blame (convincingly) on the textbook companies who are loath to put anything in a text that someone, anyone, might find offensive. I put a large part of the blame on the influx of socialist True Believers into the ranks of educators since the time of John Dewey. As far as public schools are concerned, we've abandoned the idea that education can liberate the human mind or human spirit. Schools are now warehouses, run by administrators terrified of lawsuits and too many teachers who are literally tyrannized by their charges and their parents. Indoctrination still goes on, though. Read this lovely little op-ed by Mark Bradley, a history teacher from Sacramento. I bet his classes are popular!

It would seem that if you want some good indoctrination, your only choices are homeschooling or private - often ecumenical - schools.

Indoctrination of children is not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhere along the line we stopped paying attention to what was and what wasn't getting poured into their heads, and it started long before 1975.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Philosophy

All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. - Aristotle
I've been writing here for right at three and a half years. If the post counter is to be believed (blogspot being what it is), this is the 2281st post here. Prior to TSM I spent six months and a bit over 1800 posts at DemocraticUnderground.com in the "Gun Dungeon" irritating the Progressive faithful. (Most honest expression of the faith ever posted there: "There is no room in the progressive agenda for gun rights.") Before that I spent a few months in the mosh-pit of talk.politics.guns and at the late, lamented Themestream.com. I have been a member of AR15.com since February of 2001. I have posted about 8,500 times there, and am still active.

In the last, oh, three years or so, on top of the fiction I prefer, I have read the following books (not a complete list, and certainly not in order):

Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, by David Hackett Fischer

Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond

Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty by Randy Barnett

Shooters: Myths and Realities of America's Gun Cultures by Abigale Kohn

Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by James Webb

Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different by Gordon S. Wood

1776 by David McCullough

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by LTC Dave Grossman

Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the past Still Determine how We Fight, how We Live, and how We Think by Victor Davis Hanson

Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass and Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, both by Theodore Dalrymple

For the Defense of Themselves and the State: Legal Case Studies of the 2nd Amendment to the U. S. Constitution by Clayton Cramer (Contact Clayton directly. I'm sure he'd be happy to sell you an autographed edition.)

Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg

Philosophy: Who Needs It and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control by Gary Kleck and Don Kates

Whose Right to Bear Arms Did the Second Amendment Protect? edited by Saul Cornell

True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

and, by association,

Conversations with Eric Sevareid by Eric Sevareid, which has two interviews with Hoffer

Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America by Mark Levin

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell

Honor: A History by James Bowman

And, of course,

Silent America: Essays from a Democracy at War by Bill Whittle

This is in addition to all the blogs, court decisions, op-eds, news pieces, and other internet reading I've done. Next on deck are Milton Friedman's Free to Choose and Capitalism and Freedom, and F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. (Be still, my beating heart.)

I'm 44 years old. I think I've finally developed a firm grasp on just how much I don't know. I believe I've developed a firm grasp on what little I do know. I'm reminded of that quote from The Purple Avenger's blog:
"I now understand", he said, "why engineers and their like are so hard to examine, whether on the stand or in a deposition. When they say a thing is possible, they KNOW it is possible, and when they say a thing is not possible, they KNOW it is not. Most people don't understand know in that way; what they know is what we can persuade them to believe. You engineers live in the same world as the rest of us, but you understand that world in a way we never will."
I'm interested in what works. In the course of writing this blog, I've had numerous discussions, both in posts and in comments, with others interested in the same things I am from similar and from widely divergent perspectives. In my six-part discussion with Dr. Danny Cline, he stated:
I do indeed believe that man has innate moral knowledge (I wouldn't say an instinct, but that's a pretty minor problem). I should say rather that I believe that I have innate moral knowledge.
In a comment to Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose, Billy Beck said:
At the root, I don't understand how and why individuals don't "lead" themselves.
But he had already answered his own question:
(Y)ou people are talking about blowing the place up, whether you know it or not. That's the only way it can go, as things are now, because there is no philosophy at the bottom of what you're talking about.
No philosophy.

Damned straight.

In Philosophy, Who Needs It, Rand said:
As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation -- or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears....
Dr. Cline may have an "innate moral knowledge," I won't gainsay him on that, but my observation of objective reality leads me to believe that he is by far the exception rather than the rule. The overwhelming majorty of people "accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentifed wishes, doubts and fears" and are therefore incapable of leading themselves anywhere. Aristotle was absolutely right: the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.

And we're failing in that - horribly. The entirety of Western Civilization is, apparently. If this was a WordPress blog, I'd have a category titled "Dept. of Our Collapsing Schools" filled with story after story of how parents, lawsuits, and socialist influences not limited only to political correctness and teachers unions have caused our education system to largely give up on the duty of education, and instead become twelve years of daycare. We've produced generation after generation of people with no coherent philosophy. At least, no single philosophy, or one that stands up to scrutiny.

For example, many localities passed minimum-wage increase initiatives with the last election. Speaker-elect Pelosi promises to address this apparently crucial issue in the first 100 hours of the new Congress. Why? Because a lot of Americans are convinced that the minimum wage is too low. Dale of Mostly Cajun isn't. Neither is Tam from View from the Porch. They're in good company. As Leo Rosten channeled recently deceased economist Milton Friedman on the topic:
"The public," sighed Fenwick, "is not well-informed about economics, and will pay for its innocence. Increased minimum wages lead to increased costs, which lead to higher.... Then many honest, low-wage earners in the South (where the cost of living is lower; which is one reason wages there stay lower) will become disemployed. And many more of the young and no-skilled, in Harlem no less than Dixie, will remain more hopelessly unemployed than they already are.” Fenwick regarded Rupert Shmidlapp innocently. "Tell me, honestly: Would you rather work for $1.25 an hour or be unemployed at $1.40?"

While Shmidlapp was wrestling with many unkind thoughts, Fenwick gave his guileless smile: "I am strongly in favor of wages rising — which is entirely different from raising wages. Let wages go up as far as they can and deserve to, for the right reasons, which means in response to demand and supply and freedom to choose... Take domestic servants, Mr. Shmidlapp. Why maids, cooks, cleaning women, laundresses have enjoyed a fantastic increase in their earnings. And notice, please, that domestic servants are not organized; they don't have a union, or a congressional lobby. Or take bank clerks..."
In Arizona, voters decided to ban smoking in public places but also decided to raise taxes on cigarettes to fund a child health-care program. What will they do with the fallout from dwindling tax revenues? (Oh. Silly me!) I'm sure there are other similar examples from all over the country.

For far too many people, what they know is what they can be persuaded to believe, and they can be persuaded to believe two or more mutually exclusive things simultaneously with apparently little effort. Without putting my tinfoil hat on too tight, I'm convinced that the primary reason our education system, and that of the majority if not entirety of Western civilization has collapsed is that ignorant people are easily persuaded, and politicians like it that way. So do trial lawyers. A populace with a conscious, rational, disciplined philosophy cannot be easily lead around by the nose. Such a philosophy must be avoided in a democratic society if power is to be acquired and accumulated.

To have a populace with such a philosophy, it is crucial to start with the education of youth. Some of us have been lucky in our education. I owe my basic beliefs to the quite good education I received as a child growing up on America's "Space Coast" during the Cold War and our race to the Moon. The rest of it has been a desire to educate myself that comes from I don't know where. I know I'm relatively rare; I've seen who we keep getting for elected officials and the programs they keep foisting on us to keep getting elected. We don't "lead ourselves" because most of us aren't willing to lose what we have in order to become tomorrow's forgotten martyrs. We know that there are not enough of us to affect radical change - and radical change seems to be the only answer. "Blowing the place up" worked once. I hold little hope that it will again, because the general populace does not share a common philosophy in any way, shape, or form. I'm afraid Henry George was right:
A corrupt democratic government must finally corrupt the people, and when a people become corrupt there is no resurrection. The life is gone, only the carcass remains; and it is left for the plowshares of fate to bury it out of sight.
And I'm afraid that Osama Bin Laden and his ilk through their madrassas schools have inculcated a shared philosophy that will allow them to build a new empire on the buried carcass of the West.

Aristotle never said empires had to be benevolent.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman has Died.

Another man whose writings I will have to delve into much more deeply. I wish I had seen this letter to then-"drug czar" Bill Bennett when I was writing It is Not the Business of Government. (h/t Instapundit)
In Oliver Cromwell's eloquent words, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken" about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.

You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault. Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.
Read the whole thing. Please.

I also urge you to read An Infuriating Man by Leo Rosten. It serves as a fine eulogy, I think.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

KeeWee, This One's for YOU.

A YouTube video for our very own Kiwi!

Friday, November 10, 2006

"A New Direction..."
"After six years of one party rule in Washington, the American people cast a definitive vote against the Bush administration, the war in Iraq and the corrupt Republican Congress, voting to send a strong Democratic majority to the House, and likely changing control of the Senate. It was an emphatic vote for a new direction." - Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Election Reflects Call for a New Direction California Chronicle

Although the outcome was predicted weeks in advance, the results of Tuesday's midterm elections still hit like a tsunami in their emphatic, insistent demands. By replacing dozens of Republicans with Democrats in the House and Senate, the voters made clear that they want a new direction in government. - Message from electorate: Time for a new direction, Miami Herald

“Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, celebrating her party’s return to power — and her own ascension as first female speaker in history. - Dems plan for a new direction, The Stanford Daily

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today released the following statement:

"The American people have spoken and they have demanded change. They want, they deserve and they are going to get a new direction -- at home and in Iraq. - Reid: The American People Have Demanded a New Direction, US Newswire
You get the idea.

I received this tonight in an email:
"A New DEMOCRATIC Direction For America -- "

The stock market is at a new all-time high and America's 401K's are Back. A new direction from there means what?

Unemployment is at 25 year lows. A new direction from there means what?

Oil prices are down A new direction from there means what?

Taxes are at 20 year lows. A new direction from there means what?

Federal tax revenues are at all-time highs. A new direction from there means what?

The Federal deficit is down almost 50%, just as predicted over last year. A new direction from there means what?

Home valuations are up 200% over the past 3.5 years. A new direction from there means what?

Inflation is in check, hovering at 20 year lows. A new direction from there means what?

Not a single terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11/01. A new direction from there means what?

Osama bin Laden is living under a rock in a dark cave, having not surfaced in years, if he's alive at all, while some of Al Queda's top dogs are either dead or in custody, cooperating with US Intel. A new direction from there means what?

Several major terrorist attacks already thwarted by US and British Intel, including the recent planned attack involving 10 Jumbo Jets being exploded in mid-air over major US cities in order to celebrate the Anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks. A new direction from there means what?

Iraq was to be made "ground zero" for the war on terrorism terrorist cells from all over the region are alighting the shadows of their hiding places and flooding into Iraq in order to get their faces blown off by US Marines rather than boarding planes and heading to the United States to wage war on us here. A new direction from there means what?

Moreover, bear in mind that all of the above occurred in the face of the 1999 tech crash, the epidemic of corporate scandals throughout the 90's, And the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on NYC & DC took years in the planning which collectively sucked 24 trillion dollars and 7.8 million jobs out of the US economy.

God bless America.
Somebody ought to. We need all the help we can get.