Reliability and the New York Times

So, today the New York Times offered a small article reporting the New England Patriots visited the White House as has been customary for the Super Bowl winners. That was about the only factually correct part of the article. In it they reported that “only” 34 players showed up and that this was a small number. They showed a picture of the last and current teams on the steps with a substantially larger number of people in the photo from the last time they one and far fewer than this year. Except that this was all untrue. 36 players showed up the last time. In the photo of the former visit to Mr Obama’s White House, the team + othe personel lined up on the stairs, in the current photo, 40 or more of the staff (non-players) were seated on the lawn … and *that* is why they aren’t in the photo, this is an intentional misleading comparison. 

You’d think (and you’d be wrong) that the NYTimes editors realizing they’d been accused of fake news would be especially careful to be not caught easily in fabrications and lies. 

So, now when the Times reports that polls are down for Mr Trump or other “bad” news about the administration … why would you believe them. They have showed their willingness to lie openly about easily checked matters. Would you expect them to be less or more trustworthy on matters that are less easy to verify. I’d offer … less.   

In the Past Week or So …

So, a 11 ton bomb was dropped. Apparently, as a result, some have decided “Mr Trump has no strategy”. How they know that, the press forgot to ask. Oh, wait. they didn’t ask because it’s clear those claiming “no strategy” were just making crap up. Remind my why grown men and women who call themselves reporters, report as “news” stuff they know is just made up? And furthermore, when you play, say, chess, do you feel it is a good idea to inform your opponent the details pertaining to your strategy? No? Thought not. Why is this different? Another very positive outcome is that unlike the former administration which completely forgot the lessons from that undeclared war of the 60s and early 70s (that is decisions should be made by professionals in the field and not by Washington) this administration has deferred tactical and methodological decisions to those who have actual expertise. Which means finally after 8 years of misery, the primary aim of our tactics will not be driven by domestic politicking but by strategic goals set by the administration.

Attacks were made in Syria as well. Pretty clearly this had a two-fold goal, first off, unlike the former (somewhat regrettable) President Obama, when a “red line is drawn” and crossed … there are consequences. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, having done the decision in front of Chinese high officials … it sets the stage for China/North Korean negotiations. If you read around in the aftermath of that event, the obvious escapes way too many observers.

News surprising no one, although it will remain to be seen if the Clinton foundation was connected, after all they carried a lot of carpet bags to Haiti.

Sex and the student body, some young women thought not saying no implied no.  Annulled. Wonder if civil suits can recover damages?



Which Is Worse?

Item 1. Judicial malpractice, some judge thinks Mr Trump can be “held liable” for incitement to violence. Not surprisingly the rhetoric cited is mild at best when compared to the former President and his cabinet. This post, same theme (bad judges) notes the “living Constitution crap-on-a-stick” and some likely consequences. Apparently as Mr Obama trampled on Constitutional protections as he was President (example not enforcing laws that didn’t suit him and his many questionable “executive orders”) those who thought his actions OK didn’t think that a President could be elected and use these same standards towards ends they didn’t actually agree with.

Item 2. This essay (missing the point slightly) … in which “aiming at the intelligence community” for allowing itself to be used to partisan ends “weakens the intelligence community”. Duh. And using the IRS for partisan ends does too, or should I say … the IRS allowing itself to be co-opted for partisan uses weakens it.

Item 3. This little snippet of a “reveal” by the left misses the point I think. And I’m not going to pretend this ass-hattery isn’t done on both sides of the aisle. Look. When you know something isn’t true or without basis and you are in position of influence then it is immoral and highly dishonest to push that lie for short term political gain. If you do that you lack integrity. If lacking integrity is common … then we’re screwed.

So. Which of these three items will do the most harm? The judiciary overstripping overstepping its bounds? Partisan corruption of essential government services and agencies? Or the loss of integrity being touted as a virtue?

Slightly related question. I searched but found no responses or hits on search terms. There are about a dozen to 20 (not including former Senators like Mr Obama and Ms Clinton) who voted unanimously for Mr Gorsuch for the federal bench. I have seen no answer to the question of why they all voted for him before but won’t now.

Mental Schism

So apparently Mr Trump is a fascist. He is actively working to reduce the size of the federal government and the regulatory state.

Every other fascist in history collected and centralized power. It is in fact one part and parcel with the definition of fascism.

Of course the (currently insane) liberal press has been firebombed and marched to the internment camps. Oh, wait.

Question remains is why those who think he is fascist haven’t had short circuits in their heads. Reality is not matching their theory.

Election Meme Still Required

A blog I’ve followed, “Just a Earth-bound Misfit, I” has forgotten a meme from the election. On of the differences noted between those who had positive things to say about Trump and the reporters and left was that those who supported him took what he said seriously, but not literally. Those reporters and those who mocked him, took him literally but not seriously.

Ms Conway remarked about security in the wake of the discussions about leaks remarked about security in her microwave. Internet security experts have not stopped speaking about the myriad security holes with IoT. There are in fact “smart” microwaves. Be my guess that:

  1. they get their voice recognition from the cloud (sending data to be interpreted and getting a response)
  2. have a microphone
  3. and … have poor or no security

In that light, the only revelation that is a little disappointing is that Ms Conway likely has a very very expensive microwave, as my first check showed “smart” microwaves aren’t the $50 item you pick up at Target or Walmart but cost considerably more (one or two orders of magnitude more).  Your Internet connected gadgetry is convenient, for you and … for any hacker that has an interest in you. You can gamble that the set of hackers interested in screwing with you is an empty set. But that is, in fact, a gamble.

Academic Insanity

Noted. Seriously, how dumb can you be. Although perhaps he was just repeating a common left wing meme.

Now, in the last two terms Mr Obama was secure from the threat of impeachment largely for two reasons. The first being that the GOP learned after impeaching Mr Clinton if that tact fails, it strengthens the impeached and doesn’t weaken him. The second reason is … after impeachment Mr Biden would have been President … and nobody in their right mind would want that. However, apparently the left has forgotten exactly how impeachment works. While any House member may suggest proceedings, you need a majority in the House to start impeachment. Hello liberals? The GOP has a strong majority in the House … and then … if impeached he’d be tried in the Senate, which is also has a GOP majority.

The left is also blind to the notion that their strident and, frankly, horrible and unjustified reactions against Mr Trump are pushing people exactly in the opposite the direction that they desire. Worked for me. I was lukewarm at best over the notion of a Mr Trump presidency. The left is every day convincing me more and more to support him more and more. Go figger.

I’m No Expert But … This Isn’t Passing the Scratch/Sniff Test

Mr Rowe writes:

Drawn in part from the writings of Christian Reconstructionists, that narrative recasts modern-day Republicans as the racially inclusive party, and modern-day Democrats as the racists supportive of slavery and postemancipation racist policies.

Here’s the problem with casting Democrat’s as the drivers behind confronting racism in the 50s and 60s in the South. Look at these two lists, here and here. Note the dates and party affiliations of those Governors of those two very very Southern (and presumably at one time, quite racist) Southern states. Recall also Mr George Wallace. Democrat? Yes. Hmm.

It may very well be that in the north of Mason Dixon line Democrats (union + intellectual elite driven) parties opposed racism and that is what the Democrats perceive as their legacy of opposing racism. But to deny that in the South the dominant party during the racial turmoil in the South was not both opposing racial integration and rights and was in fact part of the Democrat party is revisionist.

If accurate this wiki article supports the “it’s more complicated” than claiming one party or the other was complicit/non-complicit in enforcing racism and racially unfair policies.


A “moderate” posts some view on patriotism and between her attempts to poke those with whom she apparently disagrees also thinks patriotism is synonymous with progressive and that the notions of liberty and freedom are fixed things. Apparently “flag” does not equate with patriotism. This book is an exhaustive and interesting review of how our different definitions of liberty and freedom and the symbols we’ve used to represent them have changed (changed!) throughout last 200 years and that book’s very existence demonstrates that her simplistic rejection of caricatured representations of the ideas of patriotism, freedom, and liberty mean and how they are symbolized by people who are not her.

Those who want a return to small government (e.g.,  a lot of those in the Tea Party) don’t necessarily want a return to some mythic past. Saying that is their view is a caricature, a straw man. Honoring a symbol of your nation as representing honor to the thing represented isn’t wrong or even hard to understand (really it isn’t). She writes:

The definition of patriotism is love for or devotion to one’s country. To love or be devoted to someone or something usually means to want what is best for that someone or something, to be willing to make the effort, do what must be done to protect that something or someone. Conservatives seem to want the opposite. They seem to want to destroy the very thing they claim to love.

No. Conservatives don’t “want to destroy” the nation. They want to save it from the destruction that they see “progressives” are steering us toward. If you love a ship which is sailing toward ice flows and you see progressives as “fixing” the problem not by steering away from the ice, but by adding pressure to the boiler. The policy differences in left and right is a vision of what is wrong and what needs to be done to fix it, not that conservatives want to break it and liberals want the reverse. Thinking that is naive (or perhaps a result of not actually having any contact with actual conservatives).

If you want to go along with her definition of patriotism, loving someone means also rising to defend the object of your love from attacks, verbal and otherwise. Conservatives see liberals as unwilling to do this, in fact so much as to offer agreement with those attackers. If you are at a dinner party with your beloved wife, and some at the table point out her flaws in insulting ways, whether or not you (and she) are working on said flaws in private, at that dinner her flaws are not admitted but defended. To not do so is a betrayal. This is something the left can’t seem to fathom.


Two Really Good Answers to “If you knew then what you knew now” Question

On Iraq Invasion … Answer:

How many iterations do I get? I mean, we know a lot now about what worked in Iraq and what didn’t. If I knew what worked I could alter my tactics and strategy and do it far better the next time. But … that might not get it quite right, can I do another iteration and fix what doesn’t go right the second time? Be kind of cool, run the Iraq war like Tom Cruise in “Edge of Tomorrow”. Gosh we could do lots of things if we could replay hundreds of times. Now you can run this both ways from the onset to do nor not to do. But when you have replay ability clearly “do” is the correct answer, because gosh, whenever you say “do” you can replay until you get it perfect. If you “don’t” then there is no action, so no replay. So apparently the question real question at hand is “would you like a perfect Iraq invasion” or “no perfect invasion”. Clearly perfection is better.

Follow-up on this question is to ask the questioner first what thing in his life he’d most like to redo. And perhaps as well, to suggest some of the things you’d start doing differently in your re-do.

That’s the “interesting” answer. Now less “clever” answer but smarter political tack, which was a path not taken, is to turn the question on your political opponents, that is to ask about decisions made by those whom you see as your adversaries whether they’d redo their decisions. Like regarding Obamacare, Libya, or the early Iraq pullout, any “redo” or second guessing there?


Kinda Dumb, Question Remains, Intentional or Not?

So, this sort of thing is going around in many ways all over. Succinctly put (from here):

If you want to feel depressed about the future of American politics, Obamacare confirms an unnerving phenomenon that has been well-documented by social scientists: more and better information has almost no effect on the political mind.

It’s some sort of mirage apparently to the left, who remains convinced that it is just a misunderstanding that divides right and left. Which is apparently their premise, but I can’t believe they actually believe that.

It is a common practice in many sciences, especially physics, to start with a toy, highly abstracted model to demonstrate the essence of a concept. Let’s posit two parties, positions, “political minds” (whatever the heck that might be), call them the dog party and the cat party. Let’s pretend the dog values exactly one thing, equality and that the cat also values exactly one thing, freedom. A perfect communist utopia would be exactly what the dog, in this example would find the ideal. It is their goal. The cat party on the other hand would look at the (mythical perhaps) wild west as shown in movies as their ideal. It is their goal. Then you present both with a “Obamacare”, a large complicated healthcare plan that has costs, benefits and so on. Learning more and more about it is going to not change the dog or cat perceptions on the benefits of this plan one bit. This shouldn’t be unnerving at all. It is clear, those who value equality would like Obamacare as it shifts more resources from the “haves” to the “have-less”, it equalizes things. Those who value freedom would see this is one more diktat from people who should be mindin’ their own bizness and gitten out of theirn. Learning more about it, isn’t going to convince them one bit that it looks any better.

The thing is, those like the poster, Mr Klein all know that the left and right don’t share the same value structure, that they don’t evaluate “goodness” of programs and political situations with the same cost/benefit matrix. Our political system, for better or worse, is naturally bi-cameral. This means that to get any say at all, you align yourself with the “team” whose actual or declared (… which in a perfect world is aligned somewhat) cost/benefit matrix for evaluating “goodness” of decisions is best aligned with yours. Those like Mr Klein know this.

Question is, why pretend otherwise? I dunno? Any guesses?

“Islam is not the Problem” … Is that Right?

Many of our intellectual elite keep (White House, others) keep repeating that Islam is “not the problem” behind the terrorism, violence and so on in the Middle East and elsewhere (France for example). What is not said in those pronouncements is, if Islam isn’t the problem, exactly then where does the problem lie? It seems likely that the statement Islam is not the problem is only half right. People who claim “Islam is the problem” (or not the problem) can be compared with people who claim “germs cause disease” (or that they don’t). Stating that Islam is or isn’t “the problem” isn’t useful. What are some more useful remarks or questions that might be raised instead? Such as, what does a more complete story/picture look like? What are useful ways of approaching this matter, not that the President and the left elite don’t have a useful way, they just are very very coy about what that way is, as “it’s not X” does not explain “it is Y”. Continue reading →

Reader’s Exercise

So, Mr Obama is going to offer his “executive order” on immigration tonight. Constitutional scholars are going to offer their opinions. But I’m going to give you a homework assignment, in two parts no less.

Part 1. Imagine a Democrat held Senate/House and a GOP conservative President. Craft what you might see as an abortion executive order that would elicit the same <em>Constitutional</em> objections regarding balance of powers between Congress and Executive as are debated by, say, the Volokh lawyers in the wake of Obama’s immigration order.

Part 2. If you honestly did the homework of part one, explain why (if GOP) you support the part 1 proposal but object to Mr Obama’s proposal or, if a Democrat why you support Mr Obama but reject the GOP proposal.

(note: if you are “consistent” and oppose/support both, this is probably a sign you didn’t honestly complete part 1).

And They Pretend Ms Palin is Stupid

Ms Clinton trumps everyone on the stupid-meter.

If there is any justice, listen to Ms Clinton. This has to be one of the top 10 stupidest things said by a politician, “business doesn’t create jobs”. Honey, the only thing creating jobs are businesses.

And she doubles down with “trickle down doesn’t work”. Uhm, “trickle down” is Democrat slang for growth. And if you think growth doesn’t help, then why aren’t we all stone age subsistence farmers? Oh, we’re doing quite a bit better. Why? Hmm, that would be that growth thing.

If anyone votes for her now, they’re deluded.

Simple Consistency

So, if as noted last night, consistency in political stance was seen as valuable is this even possible. Consistency, or the lack thereof, is used often as a rhetorical weapon for example, “how can you support/oppose abortion saying life is valuable if you oppose/support the death penalty?” is an example. Here lack of consistency is seen as a failing. Yet every political plank is wrought through and through with inconsistencies. Is a global consistent stance on issues possible?

Looking the maths as a template, often in group theory a trivial example which satisfies your criteria serves as both a useful model and an existence proof. It so happens that with respect to consistency. So is there a (or set of) trivial consistent ideological stances one might take? Indeed. It seems apparent that the single issue (if simple enough) individual can take an internally consistent stance, if “oppose abortion”, “love pets”, or “taxes suck”  is your only public position then you can consistently offer a position on all relevant issues and abstain on the rest consistently.

This is of course, not something anyone does. People have have a varied number (in which that number is greater than one) of positions they’d like to hold. Many times these issues are in conflict. How a particular resolves a conflict differ, but it also demonstrates the relative importance of those same issues. A Democrat driving/owning an SUV indicates that status symbol ownership is more important than climate.

So inconsistency is not exactly an indication of actual inconsistency, but one of the evaluation of multiple criteria and their weightings. Thus a SUV owning Democrat who claims global warming is an urgent priority is signaling that the “urgency” part of this statement is at best empty rhetoric (more likely an untruth). This ownership doesn’t signal an inconsistent belief, just that it signals the priority of which this particular belief holds in their panoply of positions.

A Confusion of Party

In the US, Democrats (liberals) and the GOP (conservatives) are confused. Liberals fear jingoism, patriotism and enthusiasm for the country, yet prefer and support big government. Studies show Conservatives want to belong, are patriotic, and demonstrate enthusiasm for their country yet they are the anti-government party. The Democrats affirm support for the “little guy” against corporate and government abuse (not unrelated … this weekend Mr Obama held a 50k per plate dinner in which he spoke (apparently not ironically) against income inequality. Those conservatives that doubt Mr Obama’s oratorical skills should note that somehow that was delivered and received without a pause or for laughter (or an expectation of same)). Idiots of course abound on both sides of the aisle, partisan flacks somehow manage to only remark on those on their side. Mr Schraub, old time blog neighbor, for example manages to notice dumb statements regarding Ebola from the GOP, apparently missing almost identical stupidity from members of his party. Democrats claim to support those without defense, yet a party de facto requirement is that to be a Democrat one must support abortion. A fetus is without question one of the most vulnerable points of the human existence. Conservatives on the other hand, struggle to reconcile their “don’t tread on me” with desiring crack downs (by government) on illegal aliens and enforcing restrictions on marriage. Liberals drive their big SUVs to “green” global warming affairs and lay claim to be the “party of science” (on global warming) while at the same time speaking out against the “dangers” of vaccinations.

The point is that the neither side of the aisle is the least bit consistent in either their choice of ideals or their application of same. So, this consistency thing, is it of any value at all? Is expediency and power for its own sake the only priority? Sides have to be taken so the party leaders divvy up positions on a first come first served historical basis? Must the non players be always forced to choose party and pol by principles of which is the “least worst”. Is consistency of principles possible?

So what next? Well, the task (for tonight) seems to be as follows, first is an y consistent policy/ideological stance possible? This might follow several steps, first can one make a “toy” internally consistent stance (the analogous Maths thing would be a trivial solution or an existence proof). If not, then perhaps the only solution is to follow Eastern church’s solution to doctrine in contrast to the Western (western tends to go by Catechisms and statements of faith, the East in place of statements patterned after law points to a large body of poetry as to define their beliefs). If a toy solution is possible, then the next step would be to search for a realistic one.  Then finally if realistic solutions are possible, we might try to find some realistic consistent ideals to which one might desire to hold for oneself.

One of the fundamental problems with “being consistent” and not contravening known features of governance is that there are tensions. Government is, currently, by definition “top down”, the government dictates to the governed. Yet, as Hayek pointed out asymmetry of information points to an essential flaw of the top down approach. In some sense, having any government at all runs against the informational asymmetry. But of course, having no government (as Hobbes pointedly assures us) leads to nasty, brutish, and short lives, which is not at all conducive to life, liberty, and the pursuit of eudaimonia (happiness).

(to be continued)

Our Stupid Crocodilian Leaders

Reflect a moment on the Olympics, the US and many Western leaders have decided “not to attend”, Google followed suit with a rainbow Olympic rings display, and publicly gay (privately … who knows) stuffed shirts were sent as part of the US delegation and many others. This was supposedly in response to how Russia is perceived to deal with public homosexuality.

Consider the following. Make an honest list of the top 10 economic, liberty, social, legal, and cultural issues facing the Russian people and the Russian Federation today. Order these by which have the highest priority and will do the greatest good. If you are honest (and I will charitably assume that is the case), gay rights did not appear on the list. Extend it to 20. Gosh. Still not there. In fact, I’d be willing to bet, if you put the time and effort it that gay rights might not even (if you are honest) make the top 100.

So …. why is that a putative issue for our leaders? Could it be because all politics is local and this is a safe way of pretending to do something about gay issues in their country without having to actually, you know, do anything about those issues? Crocodile tears all around.

In Which I Am Confused

Obamacare, much in the news lately, has noted that it depends on millions of young healthy individuals who are not currently insured to sign up for insurance, in a large part to pay for the coverage that they will extend other uninsured people who are not-so-healthy. This strikes me as an actuarial accounting error.  Or a dishonest tax using crooked actuary tables.

Actuarial methods assign costs and risk based on statistical advantage of your place in a pool of subscribers. An honest actuary prices your insurance premium at the same level as your cost. Given a large enough subscriber pool, your premium averaged over the large number of people is exactly matched by the insurance payouts for your pool.

Thus adding a new group, young uninsured healthy 20 y/olds should have zero impact on the larger picture. Their premiums should be the same as the payouts for those in the same pool. But .. this is apparently not the case.

Why? Because the designers of Obamacare are crooks. Is there another explanation? ’cause it seems the only explanation I can see from here.

Of Henry and Barack

Henry II had a stalwart friend and assistant in Thomas Beckett his chancellor. When there was a chance to elevate Thomas to a position of arch-Bishop of Canterbury Henry did so, thinking he’d have a close ally in the Church. What he didn’t realize was that Beckett was loyal not to him as his chancellor but the office … and when he was head cleric … he was likewise loyal to his office and no longer a close friend and ally of the King. In a frustrated rage (and Henry had a temper) Henry famously hollered  “will someone not rid me of this meddlesome priest” … and two knights took him at his word, rode forth in the night to Canterbury and slew the Bishop in cold blood at the altar, an act which shocked and horrified both England and their King who never actually intended this act to be carried out.

The left in general and the left elite in particular see themselves as the faithful guardians and representatives of the people. A popular movement arising naturally belongs within their party, not the opposition. When this occurs it is an affront to their long held assumptions that the ordinary folk are their constituents and this movement is a betrayal (just talk to a gay conservative as to how liberals treat with them … for a party that thinks that harsh words against oppressed groups are harmful, they are mighty quick to use them themselves).

Mr Obama has joked about using the IRS as a political tool, he’s remarked how Tea Party members were nefarious, he’s publicly called out persons and groups to be targeted by liberal pressure. Low and behold a few knights ride out to do his bidding. Actually more than a few, but who’s counting. Apparently we are to believe there was no connection between his attitude, the atmosphere he encouraged in his administration and its behavior. History if I remember, finds Henry culpable for the consequences of his remarks. History likewise, will likely find Mr Obama culpable for the spate of government overreach and partisanship it demonstrates …

On the other hand, it seems calls for “impeach the bum” keep coming from the right. Uhm, a few points to this remark:

  • Biden? Geesh
  • The President is tried in the Senate, by Senators not a few of whom have Presidential aspirations and for which a majority share the same political party as the President.
  • Which means, the only actual good that would come of impeachment is … that it would shut down the federal government for a month or so.
  • and finally, Biden? If that doesn’t frighten you, nothing will.

Oh, wait. Point #3 might be the actual point. Impeachment even without conviction would be likely to hamstring the President during and afterwards … and he’s not going to be convicted so the Biden threat isn’t very real.

Category Errors Considered

Note: I started writing this with the notion that the category error alluded to below was a mistake and a sidelight hiding behind the issues being argued. As I continued in writing I have come to believe that the category error is both the primary reason for the arguments and further is a fundamental problem which is well known.

Much wroth, fury, words, and accusations of ignorance, bigotry, and perversion have crossed from both sides in the recent decades long struggle by various factions in the debates about marriage and who might be married rightly. A few observations

  1. Defenders of SSM remark that this sort of marriage is private and affects none outside of the marriage. Yet, if this were so, then why would not civil unions suffice? The logical answers is because this reply is a lie. It does in fact affect others and in this lies a category error to which I alluded in this essay’s title.
  2. To read the papers and hear the debates this is an important issue. Yet, why is that? Why is that more important than other issues. As that famous statistician Bjorn Lomberg  pointed out that getting vitamin supplements to the third world would saves tens if not hundreds of millions of lives (and would be cheaper and more effective than most of the aid we send to the third world), world-wide millions are affected by human trafficking indeed the numbers trafficked within the states is comparable to those affected by SSM … and those affected are mostly well educated affluent couples. Yet what debates are heard? 

How are these issues a sidelight issue and the other a hot button issue? I suspect my  I offer it is because those entrenched against SSM are also committing that same category error. What is the error of category to which I allude? Simply the following, laws and lawmakers are not our spiritual guides. Note, the use of the term “spiritual” is not the normal one, but one which I will continue in this essay and perhaps in further essays. 

So let me digress for a moment. Spiritual? What is that? In the introduction to Dimitru Staniloae’s book (Orthodox Spirituality), it is pointed out that in the EasternChristian doctrine, your spiritual life and its tending is perhaps better translated as your ethical life and its care. Spiritual health and ethical well being are synonyms. 

What is legal or not and what is righteous (in good spirit or a good moral/ethical decision) are independent. This is a founding principle of American jurisprudence. (Or is it?) It certainly is the assumption now. Mr Daschle defended a Senatorial philandering colleague by pointing while he while he was dishonest he didn’t break any laws. The correct reaction to this is that the colleague got his priorities exactly backwards, i.e., it is more important to be ethical than stay on the right side of the law.

Laws are not ethics. Laws and what lawmakers conspire to create has very little to do with ethics and instead its primary purpose is to provide a framework. This framework provides so that peoples may live harmoniously alongside each other in an ordered way.  So that, when conflicts between people arise, there is an orderly way of handling those same conflicts. Personal ethics overrides and sits over the law. For the most part, there is no conflict, most of our choices, our ethical decisions do not lead us toward choices which are illegal. Where they do, it is right, it is correct to choose the ethical over the legal. On the other hand, there are things you may do legally which however are not ethical. Even where there is no conflict, normally ethics binds our actions tighter than the law.

Solzhenitsyn warns that this separation that is part of modern Western democracies (and was part of the former Soviet state) is an error. That itself is an interesting counter point. So it seems likely that this why this debate is important is not what it is about, but sort of the issue is the ground on which it is being made. What is at stake is perhaps not about the particulars of whether certain young dinks (dual income no kids) can have their relationship legalized or not but really what is being debated here and in other forums is whether law should be neutral or be admitted to have spiritual (ethical) content or should it not. Kant (and our founders) explored law devoid of ethics, can a safe lawful republic of demons (not angels) be constructed or not. Perhaps it can. Perhaps it can’t. The question at hand is should it? Recall the Ratzinger/Habermas debate, debating whether a democratic society can be constructed and sustain itself independent of religion, i.e., “does it need things outside itself to sustain itself.” Ratzinger and Solzhenitsyn think not. Bertrand de Jouvenal pointed out in his meta-political science musings about what he termed Babylon (the large multicultural state) envies the unity of the small state. My reading of Solzhenitsyn (and Jouvenal) is that a solution exists. If the larger federal state limit itself to promoting commerce and unity between smaller entities within itself, while foster their ability to form strong local identity, laws and praxis then you could have the best of both worlds. You can find local loyalties and ties and bonds within the framework a larger multicultural state.

Both sides of the cultural debate miss this point. Both sides wish to apply the same laws and sensibilities in artists boroughs of San Francisco, in Amish villages in Ohio, in rural Lutheran Wisconsin, and so on. Why? Why try? It seems wrong to insist that behavioral norms universal.

Locally laws can be tied to spirit. Federally, the are not, but there they run to the Habermas separation of Spirit and law. It seems to me laws about birth, death, marriage are those which the federal level should keep its hands away, to set aside for local regions to coin their own practices, to tie their own view of ethics and spirit what is allowed, to what is righteous in their region.

Instead of insisting that laws be spiritual or devoid of spiritual considerations is wrong. Federal laws laws which bind us all, might be best be light and aim only to promote commerce, unity, and ease frictions. Local laws … let them tangle and wind the ways the local choose. That is, after all, nothing more than freedom.

Cars, Guns, and Civil Society

Lots of silliness has ensued in the weeks following the shooting in Newton, CT. Gun advocates suggest putting TSA-like agents in every school (as if schools aren’t expensive enough), gun control advocates suggest restricting “assault weapons” (a fictional category for semi-automatic rifles) and “high capacity magazines” (as if the 1-2 seconds to swap magazines would really make a difference) and basically making it far harder to obtain guns (against for example, peer reviewed academic studies showing that the elasticity to gun availability is .1 to .3 out of the 50-60 gun related deaths per 10k people per year.  As much posturing as we have on this matter, if the time the President and his Renfieldian co-conspirator Biden have wasted giving speeches on gun control more children have died in auto accidents than did in the incident they pretend is motivating their interest in gun control. But do they go after drivers and car safety? Nope.

Frequent commenter Boonton has suggested stopping gun violence by tying the liability (financial) for any gun violence to the gun owner …. the economic study above suggests the actuarial costs of such a tie would be about $10/year if you own a gun for his suggested $100k payout. The higher cost to that suggestion is figuring out how to actually reliably track the ownership trail for the millions of guns out there not to speak of those purchased in the future. That will change … what? Offer a public notion that were-guild is legal notion whose time has come?

There are those who would suggest that gun ownership is part of a former age and that modern man doesn’t have any call for guns. There are two problems with that suggestion. It suggests that the person who says that has never ever ever lived in rural America. Get out out of your current aviary and take notice that the majority males and many females living outside of cities are avid hunters. The second problem is akin to the Sudan vs Congo problem alluded to above. In the Sudan 10’s to a few hundreds of thousands of people were killed in a genocidal spasm of violence. In the Congo over the last decades millions  have died. Which got the angst and notice in the press … the Sudan not the Congo. What kills Americans (besides lack of exercise)? Cars. Automobile deaths dwarf those by gun violence by orders of magnitude. But do we have hue and cry for limiting automobile speeds to under 30 mph? Do they cry for immediately restricting cars to be only driven by state licensed professional drivers in state owned and operated vehicles? Nope. So those who decry “more gun control” need to explain why “more car control” is not a higher priority, many orders of magnitude more die that way …. so you’d think that would be were the legal and social action would be driven. But no, this is just like you’d think that the violence in the Congo would get more notice than the Sudan and Darfur was noticed. So … if you think you don’t have any call for guns in the modern age, well some people disagree and exactly the same argument you’d pretend to use to explain why you can buy a car that you prefer and drive it at more than 25-30 mph the argument exactly paralleled that you have to turn around and (hypocritically) argue applies to your desire for driving fast but not to someone else who wants to do something that you do not.

But … that begs the question. Lots of people (if not most of the people) suggest stupid things on both sides of the argument (although to be truthful, post Newton, more of the errant stupidity comes from the control/restrict side of the aisle …. however suggesting putting TSA-like guards in cash strapped schools is pretty dumb in itself). Can some intelligent suggestions be made?

Where do we see gun violence of the unwanted kind? We find gun violence in sporadic random mass shootings (like Colorado, Ms Giffords, and the recent Newtown shooting), armed robberies and muggings, some assaults and rapes, in home invasions, gang violence, suicides, and in some crimes of passion.  If there were no legal access to guns, it is likely that gun usage in the suicides and crimes of passions would fall slowly over the years as gun ownership slowly dropped. Gangs and drug traffickers aren’t obtaining their guns legally and for that matter lots of them aren’t using guns (such as fully automatic guns) which are available anywhere legally now.regions in which gun ownership is close to 100% of the population don’t have much higher gun violence (and in many places it is lower). Clearly possession isn’t the problem. Like cars (and say impaired by drugs or inattention) …. the bigger problem is intentional misuse by a very very small minority. As an aside the liberal (urban) plea for gun control and less guns in general sounds a lot like the liberal insistence that government tax us to provide charitable services (which only makes more sense if you are a standard liberal who does not (willingly) give to charity in any real measure) … that is the urban liberal is against guns because he isn’t safe with them … and figures everyone else is just like him.

So we have a variety of issues to solve. How are might these individually be addressed? Let’s quickly run this list of problems and suggest ways to ameliorate them:

  • Random mass shootings and many assaults, muggings and rapes might be solved (as suggested elsewhere) by more, not less people who carry and are trained in the use of firearms. Specifically, if the President and his cadre of liberal intelligentsia instead of moving against the presence of guns in our society tried to push that more and more of our women carried and had training … it would be a lot harder for mass shooters to get much traction. Much like the Darwin award contestant who tried to use a pistol to hold up a gun store (and got shot by a number of customers) if those schoolteachers were armed, it is quite likely that either the shooter wouldn’t have even tried or that he wouldn’t have been able to continue his rampage for so long. One of the TPM anti-gun crusaders pointed out that if you pull a gun in the presence of an active shooter that you become a target. Yes. But if 10% of the movie theater audience does so … there is no longer one target … and the odds of the shooter surviving long become themselves long. Arming our girls is the solution to both the danger of unstable mentally ill white boys and to the alleged rape epidemic and violence against women in general. 
  • Legal-to-purchase (non-automatic) Guns and fully automatic weapons in the presence of gangs are, in my view, a lot like trying to solve the “problem” of corporate money in politics. Those with the money want to spend it. It is impossible (as we see) to stop them with regulations. Just so with guns and gangs. How then to proceed? You have two choices … to fight it with greater force (police) or to move to take the profits out of the activities they perform to make their money.
  • It might also be useful to note that magazine limits and caliber limits are not good federal laws. You may want to pretend that no person in Chicago has any need for a .50 caliber Desert Eagle pistol. But … against grizzly bears in the Montana and Alaskan backwoods may still be that same pistol. And “need” is a fuzzy word. Remember, you don’t actually ever “need” to drive more than 25 mph. You just want to. And so too does the Chicago shooter. He might want to fire that .50 cal. So … remember that as you whiz along on the freeway at 70 mph.

Media Bias: A Litmus Test

The almost-here “fiscal cliff” (where the heck did that uniformly used label originate I wonder) provides a wonderful litmus test for your perusal the press and other commentary sources.

The expiration that looms involves the addition of a set of tax increases and spending cuts. Both occur. If the source talks about the “cliff” as about tax increases and not about looming cuts in spending, that’s a Democrat biased source. If the source talks not about taxes but about spending cuts which will occur that’s a GOP biased one.

The only possibly non-biased sources are the ones that talk about both. That they talk about both doesn’t mean they are unbiased.

Is Stupid?

Rome, in late antiquity, got too large for one ruler and split East/West. If one might suggest that the US Presidency has gotten too large for one guy … how to split? Grant that you’ve gone to the point of thinking splitting is a necessity. So, do you split by region or Foreign/Domestic? What do you think? And why/why not consider such a thing (besides that changing the Constitution is enormously difficult)?

Up, Down, Left, Right, and All That Nonsense

People speaking of other politically continually speak about left and right, yet these terms are basically meaningless. In the US, Mr Groseclose unlike so many others, bothers to define what he means, which by the time he gets down ends up arrives at a meaning only perhaps might only coincidentally mean the same thing that you think of when these terms are used. His method of determining right/left is political, being derived purely by analysing mathematically voting patterns of the right and left party members in Congress. The proto-typical examples of right and left come from the WWII era, whereas the Hitler-led Nazi party (National Socialists) were called “far right” and the Stalin-led Marxist USSR is identified as “far left”. What distinguishes these groups? Both were autocracies dominated by the personality of one man. Both explicitly used government powers to dominate all sectors of society. Both established massive campaigns of intimidation and slaughter in prison camps immediately on gaining power. The only difference possibly noted is that the Marxist doctrine was “post-national” intending via global domination to eliminate all national identities and Nazi fascism was rooted in German identity and nationalism. Is that the putative metric to measure right/left in common parlance? That the further left one goes the less national and more international in scope is one’s thinking? If so, why is socialism regarded as left leaning and capitalism right? Neither of these notions have much weight on the national/international scales. So. Right/left. What do you think it means? In Chemistry and Physics when you have measurables or metrics that don’t make much sense then your theory, your model is flawed. Right/left seems very flawed as a term of any descriptive value. Does anyone reading this know of any terms which actually are of any valuable use, be it descriptive or otherwise? I would venture that mostly these terms are useless and only used to categorize those with whom your are dealing as “on-my-team” or “horrible other” depending on the particularhandedness you profess to follow.

Debate Question #4

Drones. In the past years we’ve been using Predator drones and the like more and more to effect our will in unsafe territories. Dones have the advantage of not endangering US life and are very effective, but on the other side of the coin are very bad press for the US in those regions they are used and often cause civilian casualties. Drones have been used attacking targets in countries with which we are not at war.

Question: What principle decides when and were to use drones in neutral countries and how does that principle apply when considering other countries using the same rational to fly drones against targets in the US?

Debate Question #2

Continuing (for a while … if this keeps getting ignored I’ll probably stop) the debate … a question for our candidates:


Strategy amounts to setting long term goals and objectives, tactics is the means of getting from here to there. Arguably we’ve been without a coherent Middle East strategy for decades, and we’ve replacing any strategy with a disconnected set of of short term tactical responses to developing situations. What would you identify as the key elements of a US Middle East strategy, Could you briefly describe what you envision as our strategic goals and objectives for the region?

Follow up: What do you see as the first tactical step moving in that direction?

Question A Day

A blog post out there on the Interwebs asked what question you might ask in one of the Presidential debates. I’m going to try to post, uhm, one every day or so.

Question: One of the oft spoken assumptions about the current election is the major issue for the voters is the economy and employment. Can you identify the most important policy changes we need to push in order to put the US on the right track. Please identify just two, the most important item on which you believe you and your opponent are in agreement and the most important one on which you do not agree.


(edited for clarity slightly)

He Bought 6000 Rounds

OK. Seriously. So have I and I’m not a serious gun guy. 6000 rounds isn’t that exceptional a quantity. I did buy .22 LR which isn’t going to be the first choice of for your garden variety killing spree. When I go to the range, I typically shoot 200-300 rounds. If you go shooting once or twice a week, buying in quantity is what you do. If you fire larger calibers than .22 LR … you collect brass and do you own reloads (9mm for example costs about 40 cents a round if you don’t do reloads). It takes repetition to teach your spine to shoot.

Question for the gun controls must be higher and higher? If 50 of the people in the theater were armed via concealed carry … Might the outcome have been different?

The quoted link above clearly thinks that tighter gun laws are necessary, yet the recent shooter had a large cache of illegal explosives. Clearly gun laws weren’t what stopped him. The shooter had no history of mental illness, crime records, or anything to prevent him from buying guns and moderate stores of ammo in any state. His emphatic “make it tougher for criminals and nuts to buy guns” would have done nothing. So, then why bring it up now?

Recently, “America is no longer ‘top nation'” inspired by insipid political advertisements in the guise of Allen Sorkin TV-News drama arose in conversation. This was a big lie cementing a reasonable argument (that we have problems that need addressing). Basing an argument on a lie, however good the argument is, weakens your rhetoric and destroys your credibility.

Look people, both right and left, but it seems lately the left of the aisle turns to this more and more (see the above and AGW) … stop it!! Stop using clearly stupid/false things to persuade. If you think tighter gun laws will help bring down gun crime. Prove it with actual data. If you think on the other side, that armed homeowners and women with concealed carry are safer on the streets at night against predators) use actual data not specious easily disprovable remarks. Against both sides of the gun control argument, data I’ve seen has shown that looser gun laws and concealed carry is uncorrelated with increased gun violence. One study demonstrated that legalized “open carry in bars” had no impact on gun violence in a city (or was it cities). Seems to me if restricting or not restricting personal liberties has no impact either way on our society … then “more personal freedom” should be the default choice.

Howzzat Work Anyhow?

Protest movements as evidenced most recently by the Occupy movement basically amount to soft terrorism. That is to say soft in the sense that it is terrorism with muted, understated violence. Instead of blowing up bus stops, eateries, and commuter throughways, they clog them up, pollute them, and fill them with the smell of human effluence unwashed bodies and worse. An even milder yet more understated violence is approaching inexorably toward us in the US … that being the soft nuisance that pretends to be an election season, in which our information channels instead of our commuter ways and shops will be filled with the annoyance of politicians grabbing for our attention.

What puzzles me in this matter is the mystery of why anybody thinks this works. It beggars my imagination how somebody thinks that annoying people will generate sympathy for their cause. This goes for all three of these types of terrorism, from the hard terror of bombs and the homicidal mania that constitutes the al-Qaeda and Palestinian flavors of terror to push polling, TV ads, and blind phone calls.

Is it all just a gamble? Is the gamble that their actions have two parts … that they will innervate and garner support amongst those that are sympathetic more than they will annoy and turn away those that are either uncommitted or against their cause. Because, from where I sit all these movements certainly do the latter. For myself, I’ll admit I have no dog in the Middle East Israel/Palestine disagreements but the Palestinian violence certainly is a convincing argument against the justice and rationality of the Palestinian cause. Likewise, I’m would be sympathetic to the notion that jobs and employment and getting ahead is going to be harder for my children than it was for me. But the OWS movement has certainly soured any sympathy for supporting any of those knuckleheads in any material fashion. Is there any evidence that these methods work? That they don’t do the obvious, that is turn more people against you than not?

There are a species of novels celebrating the anti-hero. Are people so used to this sort of thing that they figure we’ll root for, support, vote for, and otherwise follow you if you anti-advertise?

A Modest Proposal: Campaign Finance Reform

The regrettable Mr Edwards, whom the Democrats just recently discovered, is something of a slime-weasel, is in the news as he is accused of campaign finance “irregularities.” Additionally, the left is up and arms over the high court’s rejection of restrictions on corporate contributions to campaigns. Additionally, we have a problem with our deficit. I have a solution for all three.

Let’s get rid of all campaign finance restrictions. Campaign contributions will be considered, in my proposal, as a contribution directly to the person who is running. He can use those funds however he might see fit, for vacations in the South Pacific, an extension on his house, or for campaign ads, campaign gewgaws and literature, or other campaign related activities. This will have several benefits.

  1. No silly court related cases like the above.
  2. People will think twice about contributing to people of low character.
  3. Contributions will be taxed as income (likely as aggressively as lottery income), and as a result, will have a positive impact on our deficit far greater than the “tax-the-rich” proposals on the table.

So, there you go. Campaign finance irregularities. Solved. Everybody can go home happy now.


Or not.

A Quick Question

Recently jobs numbers came out … two data points are of interest and can be used, perhaps, to judge the bias of the sources. One set, points out that January job numbers are up and by one metric unemployment has dropped to 8.3%, getting firmly below 9. The other set, which is new as well, points out the divergence between two proxies which normally track but recently have diverged. Unemployment, as tracked by those applying for unemployment benefits and jobs, normally tracks well with the number of unemployed. Yet in the last 18 months this tracking has diverged. More and more people have (according to the second unemployment proxy) have given up seeking work. By that second metric, unemployment is above 10.5%.

Honest reporting would, I offer, report both points. There are many, who for political reasons, decide on or the other figure is more significant. Are there good reasons besides the nominally “bad” political partisanship ones for not noting both?

Oh, by the by, I’ve got to run early to get to a job site about an hours drive north. My links post will go out tonight.

Question for dem Dems

Apparently in Florida Democrat PACS and large contributors are posting their own pro-Gingrich anti-Romney ads. Two questions. First, do you think that is because the feel Mr Gingrich is a weaker opponent against Mr Obama or is it because they actually prefer him as a possible President. If you thought it was the former, and not the latter, why do you think that supporting a person who you think is less fit for office is your patriotic duty? If you think that it is likely that the answer was the former how do you then explain the lack of objections to this tactics on left leaning blogs?

Public/Private/Home … School, Healthcare, and Beyond

Recently the Paul interview sparked a conversation about the limits of government to take our choices putatively for the public weal. This is, for the nonce, the status quo regarding education. How that impacts us in society is of some relevance as the progressive/liberals in our midst have the notion that this would be a good thing if moved to other spheres, like healthcare. What they fail to do is point out the downside for the ordinary person. Continue reading →