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

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Quote of the Day - HPMOR Edition

I've been reading the fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by author Less Wrong since about the time chapter 77 went up.  Less is the nom de plume of Eliezer Yudkowsky:
a resident of Berkeley, California, has no formal education in computer science or artificial intelligence. A former child prodigy, he scored a 1410 on the SATs at age 11 and a perfect 1600 four years later. He co-founded the nonprofit Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (currently the Machine Intelligence Research Institute) in 2000 and continues to be employed there as a full-time Research Fellow.
He is also heavily involved in the Center for Applied Rationality.

In my previous post Faith in Government, I referred to the collection of essays on the left sidebar of this blog under the heading "The 'Rights' Discussions," in response to a Facebook post on a whole list of proposed new individual rights. A good chunk of those essays were a back-and-forth between myself and a math professor, Dr. Danny Cline, partly on whether rights were something human beings understood instinctively. He said yes, I said no.

In the TSM tradition of using someone else's words when they say it better than I can, an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - Chapter 87, Hedonic Awareness:
"Is there some amazing rational thing you do when your mind's running in all different directions?" she managed.

"My own approach is usually to identify the different desires, give them names, conceive of them as separate individuals, and let them argue it out inside my head. So far the main persistent ones are my Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin sides, my Inner Critic, and my simulated copies of you, Neville, Draco, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Professor Quirrell, Dad, Mum, Richard Feynman, and Douglas Hofstadter."

Hermione considered trying this before her Common Sense warned that it might be a dangerous sort of thing to pretend. "There's a copy of me inside your head?"

"Of course there is!" Harry said. The boy suddenly looked a bit more vulnerable. "You mean there isn't a copy of me living in your head?"

There was, she realized; and not only that, it talked in Harry's exact voice.

"It's rather unnerving now that I think about it," said Hermione. "I do have a copy of you living in my head. It's talking to me right now using your voice, arguing how this is perfectly normal."

"Good," Harry said seriously. "I mean, I don't see how people could be friends without that."

She continued reading her book, then, Harry seeming content to watch the pages over her shoulder.

She'd gotten all the way to number seventy, Katherine Scott, who'd apparently invented a way to turn small animals into lemon tarts, when she finally worked up the courage to speak.

"Harry?" she said. (She was leaning a bit away from him now, though she didn't realize it.) "If there's a copy of Draco Malfoy in your head, does that mean you're friends with Draco Malfoy?"

"Well..." Harry said. He sighed. "Yeah, I'd been meaning to talk with you about this anyway. I kind of wish I'd talked to you sooner. Anyway, how can I put this... I was corrupting him?"

"What do you mean corrupting? "

"Tempting him to the Light Side of the Force."

Her mouth just stayed open.

"You know, like the Emperor and Darth Vader, only in reverse."

"Draco Malfoy," she said. "Harry, do you have any idea -"


"- the sort of things Malfoy has been saying about me? What he said he'd do to me, as soon as he got the chance? I don't know what he told to you, but Daphne Greengrass told me what Malfoy says when he's in Slytherin. It's unspeakable, Harry! It's unspeakable in the completely literal sense that I can't say it out loud!"

"When was this?" Harry said. "At the start of the year? Did Daphne say when this was?"

"No," Hermione said. "Because it doesn't matter when, Harry. Anyone who said things - like Malfoy said - they can't be a good person. It doesn't matter what you tempted him to, he's still a rotten person, because no matter what a good person would never -"

"You're wrong." Harry said, looking her straight in the eyes. "I can guess what Draco threatened to do to you, because the second time I met him, he talked about doing it to a ten-year-old girl. But don't you see, on the day Draco Malfoy arrived in Hogwarts, he'd spent his whole previous life being raised by Death Eaters. It would've required a supernatural intervention for him to have your morality given his environment -"

Hermione was shaking her head violently. "No, Harry. Nobody has to tell you that hurting people is wrong, it's not something you don't do because the teacher says it's not allowed, it's something you don't do because - because you can see when people are hurting, don't you know that, Harry?" Her voice was shaking now. "That's not - that's not a rule people follow like the rules for algebra! If you can't see it, if you can't feel it here," her hand slapped down over the center of her chest, not quite where her heart was located, but that didn't matter because it was all really in the brain anyway, "then you just don't have it!"

The thought came to her, then, that Harry might not have it.

"There's history books you haven't read," Harry said quietly. "There's books you haven't read yet, Hermione, and they might give you a sense of perspective. A few centuries earlier - I think it was definitely still around in the seventeenth century - it was a popular village entertainment to take a wicker basket, or a bundle, with a dozen live cats in it, and -"

"Stop," she said.

"- roast it over a bonfire. Just a regular celebration. Good clean fun. And I'll give them this, it was cleaner fun than burning women they thought were witches. Because the way people are built, Hermione, the way people are built to feel inside -" Harry put a hand over his own heart, in the anatomically correct position, then paused and moved his hand up to point toward his head at around the ear level, "- is that they hurt when they see their friends hurting. Someone inside their circle of concern, a member of their own tribe. That feeling has an off-switch, an off-switch labeled 'enemy' or 'foreigner' or sometimes just 'stranger'. That's how people are, if they don't learn otherwise. So, no, it does not indicate that Draco Malfoy was inhuman or even unusually evil, if he grew up believing that it was fun to hurt his enemies -"

"If you believe that," she said with her voice unsteady, "if you can believe that, then you're evil. People are always responsible for what they do. It doesn't matter what anyone tells you to do, you're the one who does it. Everyone knows that -"

"No they don't! You grew up in a post-World-War-Two society where 'I vas only followink orders' is something everyone knows the bad guys said. In the fifteenth century they would've called it honourable fealty." Harry's voice was rising. "Do you think you're, you're just genetically better than everyone who lived back then? Like if you'd been transported back to fifteenth-century London as a baby, you'd realize all on your own that burning cats was wrong, witch-burning was wrong, slavery was wrong, that every sentient being ought to be in your circle of concern? Do you think you'd finish realizing all that by the first day you got to Hogwarts? Nobody ever told Draco he was personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society he grew up in. And despite that, it only took him four months to get to the point where he'd grab a Muggleborn falling off a building." Harry's eyes were as fierce as she'd ever seen him. "I'm not finished corrupting Draco Malfoy, but I think he's done pretty well so far."

The problem with having such a good memory was that she did remember.

She remembered Draco Malfoy grabbing her wrist, so hard she'd had a bruise afterward, while she was falling off the roof of Hogwarts.
I've never read the original Harry Potter novels, but five chapters into HPMOR I was hooked. If you've not read it, I give it my strongest recommendation. Then you, like me, can wait for each new chapter to be published.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Faith in Government

I have this T-shirt, I got it recently, that says:

Defies Both

But that's not the Quote of the Day.  This is:
The administration has admitted to spying on everybody, including the press; collecting every bit of communications and personal data it can, including credit ratings, purchases, and browsing history. Nowhere have they said Congress is exempt. Verizon was the first phone company where it was admitted that everything they touch goes to the NSA. Upon taking office, every member of the House and Senate is handed a Blackberry to do everything on. Who has the contract for the Congressional Blackberries? Verizon.

Since this started in 2009, one has to assume that every member of Congress regardless of party has been compromised, or has family that has been compromised; and is being blackmailed, extorted, or bribed in some form or combination, and is under the control of the administration. This explanation is the Occam’s Razor for why the Congress, the Republican Caucus in particular, has been so passive and refused to fight back against Obama.

There are implications for the future of the country.
Indeed there are.  And they're not pretty.

I'm most of the way through reading the book Why Nations Fail. The overarching theme, it seems to me, is the same one put forth by Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, among others - human nature doesn't change. Added to that is Robert Heinlein's observation:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."
Prosperity - a good marker for societal success - follows liberty.  Though it is far from the sole condition necessary for prosperity, liberty is an essential condition.  But liberty is quite rare, difficult to win, and apparently impossible to maintain for extended periods.  In contrast to the Declaration of Independence, throughout history governments have been instituted among men almost exclusively not to secure the rights endowed upon them by their creators, but instead to secure the power and privilege of the powerful and privileged.  Because human nature is what it is, who it is that has power and privilege may change over time, but the function of government remains, with few exceptions, to protect that power and privilege - regardless of who holds it.

Liberty endangers the power and privilege of those currently holding it.  The authors of Why Nations Fail point out repeatedly that governments - again, almost without exception - tend to do whatever they can to prevent economic "creative destruction," because with it comes shifts in who holds economic, and thus political power.

Liberty is dangerous, and it is most dangerous to the powerful and privileged.  I am once again reminded of something I've quoted repeatedly from a post by blogger Ironbear several years ago:
It would be a mistake to paint the conflict exclusively in terms of "cultural war," or Democrats vs Republicans, or even Left vs Right. Neither Democrats/Leftists or Republicans shy away from statism... the arguments there are merely over degree of statism, uses to which statism will be put - and over who'll hold the reins. It's the thought that they may not be left in a position to hold the reins that drives the Democrat-Left stark raving.


This is a conflict of ideologies...

The heart of the conflict is between those to whom personal liberty is important, and those to whom liberty is not only inconsequential, but to whom personal liberty is a deadly threat.

At the moment, that contingent is embodied most virulently by the "American" Left. This is the movement that still sees the enslavement and "re-education" of hundreds of thousands in South Vietnam, and the bones of millions used as fertilizer in Cambodia as a victory. This is the movement that sees suicide bombers as Minute Men, and sees the removal of a brutal murder and rape machine from power as totalitarianism. This is the movement that sees legitimately losing an election as the imposition of a police state. This is the movement that believes in seizing private property as "common good". That celebrates Che Guevara as a hero. The movement who's highest representatives talk blithely about taking away your money and limiting your access to your own homestead for your own good. The movement of disarmament.

The movement of the boot across the throat.

Think about it. When was the last time that you were able to engage in anything that resembled a discussion with someone of the Leftist persuasion? Were able to have an argument that was based on the premise that one of you was wrong, rather than being painted as Evil just because you disagreed?

The Left has painted itself into a rhetorical and logical corner, and unfortunately, they have no logic that might act as a paint thinner. It's not possible for them to compromise with those that they've managed to conflate with the most venal of malevolence, with those whom they're convinced disagree not because of different opinions but because of stupidity and evil, with those who's core values are diametrically opposed to what the Left has embraced. There can be no real discourse, no real discussion. There's no common ground. There can be no reconciliation there - the Left has nothing to offer that any adherent of freedom wants. The only way they can achieve their venue is from a position of political ascendancy where it can be imposed by force or inveigled by guile.

And all adherents of freedom have far too many decades of historical precedent demonstrating exactly where that Leftward road leads - to the ovens of Dachau.
But it's not just the Left. BOTH sides currently in power are threatened by personal liberty. Creative destruction threatens them. The Left calls itself "progressive," but as was noted a while back, they're not - they're the very definition of conservative, because they're trying to conserve their power and privilege. They do that by building a class dependent upon government, a class that will keep reelecting them to ensure their gravy train doesn't stop.  The only thing they want to change is the size of that dependent class to further guarantee their power and privilege.  And the GOP?  They want to conserve their power, too, but they've earned the sobriquet of "the Stupid Party."

Steven Den Beste wrote an excellent essay on the topic back in 2002, Liberal Conservatism, in which he put it this way:
I am a humanist. I am a liberal, in the classic sense of the term, meaning that I think that the goal of a political system should be to liberate the individuals within it to have as much ability to make decisions about their own lives as is practical, with as little interference by other citizens or the mechanisms of the state. I strongly believe in diversity at every level: diversity of opinions, diversity of political beliefs, diversity of lifestyles. When in doubt, permit it unless it is clearly a danger to the survival of the state or threatens the health and wellbeing of those within the state.

Which, in 2003 in the United States, makes me a "conservative", at least in the reckoning of self-anointed "Liberals" in this nation.
But what it really makes him is a libertarian.

What threatens the power of the established classes?

Personal liberty.  Private property.  Rule of law.  The things the Constitution was originally written to defend.  Why?  Because these things mean change, change that cannot be controlled, and change threatens the status quo.

Rand Paul frightens the hell out of both sides.  So does the Tea Party.

Perennial gadfly Markadelphia has, in repeated comments here, decried the fact that more and more of the wealth of this nation is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.  He is right to notice that and raise objection.  However, his "solution" is to use government force to take that wealth ("make the rich pay their fair share") and redistribute it according to, I suppose, some wise plan conceived by our betters in Washington.  Markadelphia has an overweening faith in government.

What that concentration of wealth indicates to people like me, on the other hand, is what is known as "regulatory capture" and "crony capitalism."  Government is seen by us as unlikely to be a solution, because it is part of the problem.  In point of fact, people like me don't see "solutions" - we see trade-offs.  Whatever we do will have consequences over and above what might have been intended.  We recognize that fact, and are concerned with minimizing such consequences.  The Left seems oblivious to negative outcomesIntention it seems, is more important than result.

For our skepticism, we are accused of "hating the government," and being "insurrectionists."  I've been up front ever since I started this blog that if I thought a revolution would fix anything I'd be on the front lines pulling a trigger.  But I, like the majority of people on my side of the fence, understand that Ambrose Bierce was right:
Revolution, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment.
The authors of Why Nations Fail illustrate this truism repeatedly.  The number of times in recorded history where revolution has resulted in an improvement in conditions for the common man can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.  We don't have guns so we can revolt against the government, we have guns to make the government think twice about what it can do to us.  Robert Averech put it well:
Liberty is too messy, too chaotic for the forces of the Democrat party. They yearn for conformity, for a uniform sameness that gives the illusion of a serenely content society. That’s why they want to get rid of cars and shove us all into railroad cars. Socialists just love cattle cars; they just relabel them high-speed rail.

That’s why Democrats want to get rid of the Second Amendment. An armed citizenry can resist an unjust government.
Not revolution, what we want is a restoration of government to its original mandate - the protection of the rights of individuals.  The problem is, over two-and-a-quarter centuries of entropy has made the majority of the population of this nation unwilling, if not unable to accept that the government shouldn't stand in loco parentis.

Take, for example, this Facebook post I came across the other day:
Here's the first draft. Interested in feedback for revisions, additions or deletions:


We, the human beings on Plant Earth are endowed with certain inalienable rights. We receive these from our Creator and/or the intrinsic sense of justice that dwells in all people of good conscience.

We are entitled to:
• Freedom of Speech
• Freedom of Worship and the Freedom from Worship
• Freedom from Want
• Freedom from Fear
• Access to Health Care
• Clean Air
• Clean Water
• Freedom from Economic and Sexual Exploitation
• Justice and Transparency in Financial Transactions
• A Living Wage
• Democratic Governance; Free and Fair Elections
• Equal Justice, Due Process, and the Rule of Law
• Public Education
• Public Libraries
• Public Parks
• Public Roadways
• Collective Bargaining
• Just Distribution of the Tax Burdens of Individuals and Corporations
I've already taken on the "freedom from fear" meme, but I could make a career out of fisking this list.  Hell, the nine posts on the left sidebar under the banner The "Rights" Discussion do a pretty good job of demolishing it, but there are a LOT of people out there who would read this list and nod their heads sagely headbang while throwing up "hang loose" and peace sign hand gestures.

Here's the author's profile picture:

 photo 1045116_601199539911755_1899370960_n.jpg

Yup, another unreformed 60's hippie. According to his "about me" page, he taught English as a Second Language from 1981 through 2007, he currently lives in Washington, D.C. and he is an "Aggressive Progressive." Quelle surprise!  Gee, I wonder if he's read Paulo Friere's Critical Pedagogy.

This is, quite literally, what we're up against.  People like this are every bit as activist as NRA members, and I'd venture to guess there are MORE of them (since they have infested the public school systems and taught our kids for decades), albeit less focused or organized. Or rational.

A while back, Oren Litwin, aka "Critical Mastiff" when he comments here, said this:
If the non-socialist end of the political spectrum cannot create a political philosophy that is both good theory and emotionally appealing, we're doomed.

Any political philosophy that is not self-reinforcing is by definition not the best political philosophy. Libertarianism (with a small "l") features a stoic acceptance of individual risk (i.e. the lack of government intervention) for the sake of long-term freedom and prosperity--yet takes no measures to ensure that the society educates its young to maintain that acceptance of risk. The equilibrium, if it ever exists in the first place, is unstable and will collapse.

This aside from the fact that libertarianism is emotionally cold and unfulfilling to most people, who have not trained themselves to consider lack of outside restraint to be worth cherishing.
Bill Whittle has described the Left's "emotionally appealing" political philosophy thus:

I think he's on to something there.  But what about a good "emotionally appealing" alternative?  Orin says Libertarianism is "cold and unfulfilling to most people," (or downright frightening some), but that's a marketing thing, I think.  Bill Whittle has something to say on that subject, too.  Here's the first part:

I have a major quibble with Bill on this, though.  "Leave Me Alone" is not the position of the Republican Party.  Both the Democrats and the Republicans are shot through with people who very much DO want to tell people what to do.  It seems that wanting to tell people what to do is a primary requirement for wanting to run for public office.  "Leave Me Alone" is a libertarian position.  Heinlein wrote in his 1966 Hugo and Nebula winning novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress:
Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up.
Andrew Klavan just the other day echoed the thought:
If I could reach into the heart of humankind and pluck one flaw from its unknowable depths, it would be our seemingly irresistible desire to tell one another what to do.
It seems the only response to that deep yearning, that seemingly irresistible desire, is to try to do something about limiting their ability to act on  it.  Heinlein also wrote in Mistress:
It may not be possible to do away with government — sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small and starved and inoffensive — and can you think of a better way than by requiring the governors themselves to pay the costs of their antisocial hobby?
Now there's a thought!

On to the second leg of the Libertarian tripod, "It's Your Stuff":

If you don't believe that "six or seven out of ten" college students self-identify as socialists, consider the fact that a 2002 Columbia Law poll found
Almost two-thirds of Americans think Karl Marx's maxim, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" was or could have been written by the framers and included in the Constitution
That's right in the middle between six and seven out of ten for the math impaired.

Seems like things haven't changed much in the last decade.

On to part three - "Don't be a Jerk":

But they're not conservatives - they're libertarians.  And they're not represented by either side currently in power.

And they're not likely to be, either.  Go back up and re-read that first quote.  If in fact the Ruling Class is that firmly entrenched, then there is little hope left for those of us in Angelo Codevilla's "country class" - those of us who are "small 'L'" libertarians.  Liberty is on life-support.  The continued concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands is guaranteed, and the inevitable outcome will be a failed state and eventual societal collapse at the hands of people who live to tell others what to do.

Billy Beck calls it "The Endarkenment."  He's been predicting it for quite a while.  And it comes from "Faith in Government," in defiance of history and reason.

Bill Whittle on Gay Marriage

As "Mr. Virtual President."

Well said, Bill!

Your Moment of Zen - 115°F Edition

The predicted high temperature here in Tucson tomorrow is 115°F.  With that in mind, think cool:

 photo 598539_68384850f21f0955ded803eedd0eb27c_large.jpg

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quote of the Day - Coal Edition

Given yesterday's announcement that the Obama administration needs to engage in a "War on Coal," I was amused by an Instapundit reader's comment:
Given the success of the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs, if I’m Big Coal, I’m praying for a War on Coal.
This goes well with yesterday's QotD, which concluded: government, failure is an exciting excuse to ask for more funding or more power.
Can I get an "AMEN!"?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I See a Trip to Texas in my Future

Texas to Pay Sportsmen to Hunt Hogs

There are an estimated five million feral pigs in the United States, half of which are located in the Lone Star State. Texas already spends $7 million on their hog management programs but experts say that is not enough to prevent the population from tripling in the next five years. To keep the pigs under control, the state will have to eliminate nearly 66 percent of the swine every year. For comparison, hunters and trappers accounted for over 750,000 pigs harvested in 2010, only 29 percent of the population.


The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will be partnering with county governments to launch the 2013 County Hog Abatement Matching Program (CHAMP). The initiative will encourage counties to match state funding dollar-for-dollar up to $30,000, which will be then paid to hunters.
I think I need to start loading some .458 SOCOM...

Where Do I Sign?

There's now a web site where you can get PDF petition forms to recall both Arizona Senators Flake and McCain.  The impetus behind this is the "Immigration Reform" bill that they now both support.  It started out just to recall Flake, but popular demand has added a form for McCain as well.

I'll sign.


The eighth (8th!) annual Gun Blogger Rendezvous is coming up, September 5-8 in Reno, Nevada.  Each year the Rendezvous is sponsored by several manufacturers and distributors of firearms and firearm accessories, along with gun rights and advocacy groups:

Allchin Gun Parts
Crimson Trace
Dillon Precision
Front Sight Academy
Hi-Point / MKS Supply
Lucky Gunner
Tactical Solutions
Burris Optics

True Blue Sam did a little video of some of last year's sponsors:

Trust me, the swag is worth the $30 registration fee alone, and this year the sponsors will be feeding us breakfast Friday and Saturday, and dinner Saturday as well.

S&W team shooter "Millisecond" Molly Smith and her family will be joining us again this year, and for the first time we'll have a bowling ball mortar at one of our shoots:

Bowling ball mortar courtesy of new GBR sponsor  If I did the math right, a 22 second hang-time corresponds to a peak altitude of approximately 1950 feet AGL. Impressive.  If you come to GBR-VIII, I'll tell you the story of the bowling ball mortar at the second big Southern Arizona shoot....

Quote of the Day - Jonah Goldberg Edition

From his NRO review of the book The End Is Near and It's Going to be Awesome by Kevin Williamson, Leviathan Fail:
While new iPhones regularly burst forth like gifts from the gods, politics plods along. "Other than Social Security, there are very few 1935 vintage products still in use," he writes. "Resistance to innovation is a part of the deep structure of politics. In that, it is like any other monopoly. It never goes out of business — despite flooding the market with defective and dangerous products, mistreating its customers, degrading the environment, cooking the books, and engaging in financial shenanigans that would have made Gordon Gekko pale to contemplate." Hence, it is not U.S. Steel, which was eventually washed away like an imposing sand castle in the surf, but only politics that can claim to be "the eternal corporation."

The reason for this immortality is simple: The people running the State are never sufficiently willing to contemplate that they are the problem. If a program dedicated to putting the round pegs of humanity into square holes fails, the bureaucrats running it will conclude that the citizens need to be squared off long before it dawns on them that the State should stop treating people like pegs in the first place. Furthermore, in government, failure is an exciting excuse to ask for more funding or more power.
RTWT. I had Thomas Sowell's A Personal Odyssey lined up next in the nonfiction queue, but I think I'm going to have to get a copy of The End is Near and read it next instead. Kevin Williamson echoes some of the things Bill Whittle has been saying of late, but I have some disagreements with Whittle's optimism, and it seems Jonah Goldberg has some (albeit minor) disagreements with Williamson. I'm looking forward to the read.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Bill Whittle's latest Afterburner:

Quote of the Day - Roger Simon Edition

I don’t have a brief for Snowden. He seems to be a new form of narcissistic international creep, similar to Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame. I hope he gets dysentery in Ecuador or wherever he winds up.

But he may have done us a favor, putting an exclamation point on the activities of the NSA so there are no doubts. He also has made obvious the utter contempt with which Russia and China treat the Obama administration. (Evidently this was surprising to Dianne Feinstein on Face the Nation Sunday. Go figure.)

Also interesting is that the heightened concern for our civil liberties under government digital surveillance crosses political and party lines. Given the plethora of scandals confronting the administration, this presents an opportunity for dialogue we haven’t had for many years. Who knows if it will happen?

But if it does, I hope it will be intelligent and substantive. -- What Snowden Knew
Don't hold your breath waiting for that one, Roger.  What I find most interesting is who has come out in defense of essentially unlimited government snooping.  That crosses political and party lines as well.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

114 Days

That's how long it took for my Arizona CCW permit renewal from the day I mailed it until it came back to me.

Nice to be all legal again.

Still pretty much on hiatus.  Sorry 'bout that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Falling Down on the Job

First rule of blogging:  Post Something Every Day.


I've been busy with work.  Three days in a row in Phoenix, leaving at 0500 and not getting home until well after 1700.  Too burned out to post.

Free ice cream machine is on the blink.  Read the archives or somebody else.  I'll get back to this thing sooner or later.


From the comments to this post.  I'll just leave this here:

Thanks.  I needed that.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Game of Thrones

Yeah, I'm a fan.  Don't get HBO, but I caught an episode during the first season when I was on the road.  I'd read the first book in the series several years ago and really enjoyed it, but when I bought the second one I was put off by the "23 characters in search of a plot" storyline.  I didn't pick up the third.  But having watched one of the shows, I thought it very well done, as a lot of HBO productions are.  It was available on Netflix, so I put it in my queue.  Watched the first disc, then the second, then went to Amazon and bought the whole thing.  My wife and I were hooked.

I pre-ordered Season 2.  Waited the better part of a year for it to ship, and we blew through it the weekend after it arrived.

Season 3 is on pre-order now.

I discovered that I could order the five available books as a set in eBook format, and I had some Barnes & Noble gift cards (and the Nook app on my iPod Touch), so I did.  I just finished reading A Feast for Crows, and I've come to a conclusion:

George R.R. Martin is a sadist.

Four thousand or so pages into this, and not one character has had anything good happen to them (at least that didn't later turn to sh!t).  Major sympathetic characters have been slain horribly.  Major evil characters have been slain horribly.  Major characters have been maimed.  (And there are a LOT of Major Characters.)

And it.  Keeps.  Dragging.  On.  And.  On.  And.  ON.

HBO has done, as far as I can tell, the almost unheard-of:  It has turned the movie version of a book or books into a BETTER product than the text version.  Granted, this is because the live-performance version FORCES the screenwriters to prune viciously and excerpt only those parts that will make good cinema, but in general this editing process destroys the story being told by the book.  Not in this case.

I appreciate the grand, sweeping vision - the breadth of the world that Martin has built and the characters he has filled (FILLED!) it with, but I have the uneasy feeling that at the end of this series (assuming Martin finishes it before he shuffles off this mortal coil) the Others will rule that world, and everyone we've come to love and hate will be horribly, horribly dead.


UPDATE:  Joke from the comments - G.R.R. Martin's Twitter account has been closed.  He killed all 140 characters!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Don't Like Your Face, Obama. Either One of Them

Not that I expected anything different.  But it's got to be a shock to those who thought him a "Lightworker." 

Thanks to Grumpy Old Fart for pointing to this one in a comment.

Let's add this one, too - also from a comment by QuadGMoto:

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!!

As Glenn Reynolds notes, all the scandals are about abuse of power:
(I)s it plausible to believe that a government that would abuse the powers of the IRS to attack political enemies, go after journalists who publish unflattering material or scapegoat a filmmaker in the hopes of providing political cover to an election-season claim that al-Qaeda was finished would have any qualms about misusing the massive power of government-run snooping and Big Data? What we've seen here is a pattern of abuse. There's little reason to think that pattern will change, absent a change of administration -- and, quite possibly, not even then. Sooner or later, power granted tends to become power abused. Then there's the risk that information gathered might leak, of course, as recent events demonstrate.

Most Americans generally think that politicians are untrustworthy. So why trust them with so much power? The evidence to date strongly suggests that they aren't worthy of it.
Let me repeat the GeekWithA.45's warning again:
We, who studied the shape and form of the machines of freedom and oppression, have looked around us, and are utterly dumbfounded by what we see.

We see first that the machinery of freedom and Liberty is badly broken. Parts that are supposed to govern and limit each other no longer do so with any reliability.

We examine the creaking and groaning structure, and note that critical timbers have been moved from one place to another, that some parts are entirely missing, and others are no longer recognizable under the wadded layers of spit and duct tape. Other, entirely new subsystems, foreign to the original design, have been added on, bolted at awkward angles.


We know the tools and mechanisms of oppression when we see them. We've studied them in depth, and their existence on our shores, in our times, offends us deeply. We can see the stirrings of malevolence, and we take stock of the damage they've caused over so much time.

Others pass by without a second look, with no alarm or hue and cry, as if they are blind, as if they don't understand what they see before their very eyes. We want to shake them, to grasp their heads and turn their faces, shouting, "LOOK! Do you see what this thing is? Do you see how it might be put to use? Do you know what can happen if this thing becomes fully assembled and activated?"
But the President advises, "Don't listen to those voices."

And here's Bill Whittle's voice on the subject from last year:

Your Moment of Zen

Arizona photographer Mike Olbinski has an interesting website.  In addition to doing wedding photos and such, Mike's also a storm chaser.  I stumbled across him because someone posted a link to a time-lapse series of a supercell over Booker Texas he shot.  For YMoZ, here's a picture I call "Smite."

Smite photo smite.jpg
(click for full size)

He describes it as "Lightning over Casa Grande, Arizona."  He doesn't just do weather shots, though.  (THAT was a close second for YMoZ!)

If you live in Arizona and you're looking for a professional photographer, you might want to contact him.  And if you like beautiful photographs, definitely check out his site.

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Why Shouldn't You Work for the NSA?"

I found this interesting in the current context.

But, but the right people are in charge!!

Once Upon a Time...

...a newspaper journalist was on his way to cover a story when a tire on his car blew out.  He pulled to the shoulder and looked to discover that the passenger-side rear tire was shredded.  So, he popped the trunk and started working on changing it - he was running late.  As he was jacking the car up, he noticed that his car was just a few feet from a very tall, very sturdy fence, and the fence had a sign on it warning not to pick up hitchhikers because inside the fence was a facility for the violently insane.

He spun the lugnuts off the bad wheel and placed them carefully into the hubcap he'd put on the ground nearby, but as he was pulling the bad wheel off, he heard a cough behind him.  Startled, he dropped the blown tire and it fell onto the hubcap, throwing the lugnuts into the air.  When they came down, four of the five rolled directly into a nearby storm drain.

Looking behind him, he saw that a man in a suit and tie was standing just inside the fence, watching.  His hair was perfectly groomed, and he was freshly shaved.  He didn't look insane.

"Well, hell," the reporter said, "I'm running late, and now I only have one lug nut to put the spare on with."

"Simple," responded the man behind the fence, "take one lug nut off of each of the other three wheels.  That'll give you four lug nuts per wheel, and that's enough to get you where you need to go until you can get replacements for the ones you lost."

A little stunned, the reporter replied, "That's great!  I'd have never thought of that!  Are you a doctor?"

"No," the man replied, "I'm one of the patients."

"But, how could someone as intelligent as you be in there?" the reporter asked.

"I'm insane.  I'm not stupid."


So we've had another rampage shooting, this time in California - land of the Roberti-Roos assault-weapon ban, no "gun show loophole," "bullet buttons," magazine capacity restrictions, etc., etc., etc.

And another known nutcase still managed to get his hands on an AR-15 and a bunch of standard capacity magazines, plus a black-powder revolver with a cartridge conversion cylinder.

But one more law will prevent this from happening again!

Which is both insane AND stupid.

Quote of the Day - Jerry Pournelle Edition

Sort of a twofer:
I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

John Adams, letter to John Taylor (15 April 1814).
The remedy, of course, was to form a Republic, and for over two hundred years the Republic endured. Now it is to be converted into a democracy, and the result is predictable and predicted. There are many good studies of what happens when a democracy commits suicide. If it is fortunate it gets a Claudius Caesar, but more often it must first endure a Caligula so that Claudius seems a blessed relief. And after Claudius as likely as not comes Nero. But I digress. For the moment we do not yet have Marius.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Take My Money! Entertain Me!

OK, I've just finished Larry Correia's latest, Warbound: Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles eARC (Electronic Advanced Reader Copy).

This is not my normal cuppa tea. I'm not a particular fan of... well, I was going to say "fantasy," but that brings up images of orcs and elves and stuff, and The Grimnoir Chronicles does not fit into that genre. It's literally unlike anything I've ever read, but it does have magic! Let me see if I can find Tam's description of the earlier two books in the series... Here it is:
See, Larry writes stories about people. People with complex drives and goals and motives, who don't always categorize easily into 'heroes' and 'villains'. People you care about. The fact that they're people that run around on top of a zeppelin shooting teleporting ninjas with shotguns is just a bonus.

It's a genre-defying storyline, and probably one of the more original I've read in a long time. It's got the magic thing, sure, but it's also well-researched alternate history, with a sort of superhero flavor... Imagine a prose version of The Watchmen, but with fedoras and Tommy guns, and a supporting cast that runs from Buckminster Fuller to Black Jack Pershing. And the thing with shooting the teleporting ninjas on the dirigible with shotguns, which will make you realize that, no matter how highbrow your tastes, sometimes you need to just shut up and eat your awesome.
I've read all of the Monster Hunter series and his joint effort with Mike Kupari, Dead Six

At this point I will read anything that man writes, including his grocery lists.

Larry announced recently that his writing has allowed him to quit his normal dayjob as an accountant to concentrate full time on writing.

Faster, Larry.  Take my money!  Entertain me!!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Bordering on Tyranny, Piers?

OK, here we go again with Piers "I hate the Second Amendment" Morgan a few weeks ago:

And here he is just a day or so ago (sorry about the ad - can't strip it out):

Even Glenn Greenwald is outraged!  Or is he just trying to sell more dish soap?

So I ask again:  Merely bordering on tyranny?

Bill Whittle - Happiness

If I Recall Correctly, 2008 was an Election Year

So, in January, 2008 MTV (!) ran the following two ads as part of its THINK.MTV.COM campaign. (PDF) But this wasn't political speech by a corporation or anything, right?

I wonder how they're feeling about these clips now?

Oh, and yes, Godwin has been invoked!

...And Now We're Down to Three

When it gets down to it — talking trade balances here — once we've brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here — once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel — once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity — y'know what? There's only four things we do better than anyone else:

microcode (software)
high-speed pizza delivery

-- Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash
Well, we can scratch "high-speed pizza delivery" off the list:

Yeah, it's Domino's, but it's in the UK, not Silicon Valley.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Quote of the Day - New York Times Edition

When you've lost the editorial board of the NYT, you're in deep, deep guano:
...the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.
Hey, NYT editorial board, here's a clue: It's not just the executive branch, and it's not just "this issue."

But hey!  Nice start!

Oh, and "overreach"? There's that term again.

UPDATE:  Aaaaand the NYT felt it necessary to soften the tone, apparently:
The New York Times edited its damning editorial condemning the Obama administration for collecting phone call data from Americans to make it less stinging shortly after the editorial was published online Thursday afternoon.

The editorial originally declared that the Obama "administration has lost all credibility" as a result of the recently revealed news that the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been secretly collecting call data from American users of Verizon under the authority of the Patriot Act.

But hours later the stinging sentence had been modified to read the Obama "administration has now lost all credibility on this issue." [Emphasis added]
IOW: They got it right the first time.  And no, they did not note that the piece had been altered.

Full disclosure:  I've edited this piece twice now.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Clayton Cramer Wrote a Book About This

A family's mentally ill son buys a gun with the intent to perpetrate a massacre. Prior to this, he'd planned on doing it with a knife.

Note that they can't get their son institutionalized, even though it's apparent that he's dangerous. Clayton Cramer in his book My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill discusses the changes in America's mental health system that has led to dangerously violent people wandering around free until they finally do something that will get them incarcerated.

Kudos to the parents. By age 21 I would imagine the daily grind of dealing with a mentally ill son would have worn most people out.

The Singularity is Coming

Back in 2004 when I wrote Those Without Swords Can Still Die Upon Them, I cited Steven Den Beste's piece The Four Most Important Inventions in Human History:
In my opinion, the four most important inventions in human history are spoken language, writing, movable type printing and digital electronic information processing (computers and networks). Each represented a massive improvement in our ability to distribute information and to preserve it for later use, and this is the foundation of all other human knowledge activities. There are many other inventions which can be cited as being important (agriculture, boats, metal, money, ceramic pottery, postmodernist literary theory) but those have less pervasive overall effects.
I still think he was correct.

Thanks to David Whitewolf at Random Nuclear Strikes, I listened to what I think is a critically important speech given by Juan Enriquez just a couple of weeks ago at the 2013 Fiscal Summit presented by the Peterson Foundation.

It's twenty-five minutes long, but well worth your time, I think.

Change continues, and it's still accelerating.

If we don't go off the cliff first.

"Foolish but Not Partisan" - Go Ahead, Pull My Other Leg

Ex-head of the IRS Steven Miller testified recently that the targeting of "Tea Party" and "Patriot" applicants for 501(c) tax-exemption by the IRS for "extra scrutiny" was "foolish" but not partisan:
"I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided," Steven Miller, who has been acting IRS commissioner, told the House Ways and Means Committee as the panel held Congress’ first hearing on the episode. "The affected organizations and the American public deserve better. Partisanship and even the perception of partisanship have no place at the Internal Revenue Service."

At a hearing that saw lawmakers from both parties harshly criticize his agency, Miller conceded that "foolish mistakes were made" by IRS officials trying to handle a flood of groups seeking tax-exempt status. He said the process that resulted in conservatives being targeted, "while intolerable, was a mistake and not an act of partisanship."
Right. Tell that to Becky Gerritson:

You GO girl!
I am not here as a serf or vassal. I am not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born free American woman, wife, mother and citizen. And I'm telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It's not your responsibility to look out for my well-being, and to monitor my speech. It's not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You've sworn to perform that duty. And you have faltered.
Damned straight.

UPDATE: Say Uncle makes a salient point.

Quote of the Day - Glenn Reynolds Edition

What's up with this? It's not based on any concern with safety. Lego guns, cap guns, bubble guns, nibbled Pop Tarts, and fingers are no threat to safety. And the wild overreaction in these cases says there's more going on here than simple school discipline. As I said, who treats a 5-year-old this way? It smacks of fanaticism.

In fact, it seems like a kind of quasi-religious fanaticism. I think it's about the administrative class -- which runs the schools with as little input from parents as possible -- doing its best to exterminate the very idea of guns. It's some sort of wacky moral-purity crusade. If a few toddlers have to suffer along the way, that's tough. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

-- Fighting education fanatics

Monday, June 03, 2013


OK, we're officially 94 days from Gun Blogger Rendezvous VIII!  Mr. Completely has the details:
Once a year Gun Bloggers, Gun Blog Readers, gun writers, shooters, gun association folks, and industry representatives from around the country gather in Reno at the Silver Legacy Hotel & Casino to visit, socialize, compare notes, discuss everything firearms related, and get in three range days covering everything from long range rifle, steel shooting, Cowboy Fast Draw, and more. At the Gun Blogger Rendezvous there is something going on from breakfast to well into the night! 2013 will be the Gun Blogger Rendezvous’ Seventh Anniversary.

The Rendezvous also raises money for Project Valour-IT, a division of Soldiers Angels, through a raffle of firearms and shooting sports items donated by our sponsors. Project Valour-IT buys voice actuated laptop computers for injured servicemen, who, due to the nature of their injuries, are unable to operate a computer using a conventional mouse and keyboard. This allows them to communicate with their family and friends, directly from their hospital beds, and has been shown to significantly increase their rate of recovery.

We also give out a large number of door prizes and promotional items to our attendees. Our sponsors, in return, get a lot of positive Internet exposure through the Gun Blogs and stories about the Rendezvous.

Some of our current and previous year include Ruger,, Cabelas, MKSSupply/HiPoint, Crimson Trace, Comp-Tac, Springfield Armory, Dillon Precision, Brownells, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), The NRA, The Second Amendment Foundation, and more.

Last year we raised approximately $6,000 for Project Valour-IT, and this year, we hope to do even better. Every penny we can make from the Rendezvous goes to Project Valour-IT. Even the event organizer (that’s me) pays to register for the Rendezvous!
Dates: September 5th, 6th, 7th, & 8th
Location: Silver Legacy Resort/Casino in Reno
Gun Blogger Rendezvous Website:

Mike Gallion
2704E Gabelein Rd.
Clinton, WA 98236 or
(360) 321-6258
Some footage from previous Rendezvous:

So, you coming this year?  Make your reservations now!

How You Know It's Summer in Arizona

While filling up the gas tank, you decide to clean the windshield - and can't squeegee the soap off the glass before the water has evaporated.

Your Moment of Zen

It's been awhile:

 photo 598435_c413a3e76f0dbb55914f181da21cb852_large.jpg

Click for full-size (900x599)