* Nock thinks that because there is a greater amount of literature (or content in our modern consumer parlance), the quality of all of it is hurt. I've always just imagined a normal distribution that gets larger -- meaning that the more stuff that exists, the more good stuff exists. Is blogging in the short-thought format actually a bad thing from the perspective of developing quality ideas and writing about them?

* A lot of people I know find Vegas crass, shallow, and vulgar and want nothing to do with it. I find that sort of thing fascinating and entertaining. Our experience is the same but with completely different reactions. Not that they're wrong, but it's a part of humanity that I embrace rather than turn away from.

* What is the foundation of ethics without Deity or natural rights? Most modern philosophy focuses on some kind of utilitarian model, but that leads to all sorts of lame-assedness and degradation. A more interesting foundation might be in Aristotelian virtue ethics, which no one has really dealt with since some monk hung Divine Will around its neck a few centuries back. (If someone has, please let me know!)

* Truth, Virtue, and all other sorts of Big Words are best understood as statistical realities. This is the main reason why Fortuna is so damn influential. The Law of Large Numbers is profoundly important, and failure to respect it leads to all sorts of errors, like the gambler's fallacy and belief in luck. The higher the number of trials, the closer the percentage holds to the mean, but the absolute amount of deviation from the mean increases. This is something Gladwell is on to in his latest book.

I'm in the middle of all sorts of life events right now, including moving to a new apartment in Henderson. I plan to come back to the bloggy thing in another week, but if I decide not to I'll let you know.


On the CounterClckWise calendar, Yule is the holiday that marks the turn from one sun cycle to another, which we generally use as an excuse to hang out with the extended family, drink, and watch football. But it's also an end to one year and the beginning of another, so I can't help but reflect on the recent past and coming future and the import of it all.

It was a really hard year for me in some ways, but in other ways it was maybe the best year of my life. My health has been pretty poor, but not as poor as the year before. I suffered some terrible bad beats in my situation, but I survived. I learned to be a little tougher. It was a year of gaining clarity.

The best things that came out of this year were in my relationships with my friends and family. I was stunned to see the love and caring that came my way from so many people. It was a little overwhelming at times, even. I'm especially grateful to have gotten to know my Dad and Mom in Bozeman so much better. I love them both very much and I'm so proud to be a part of their family.

It seems a little silly to me that I needed to face death to stop worrying about trivia and to see that the most important things were right in front of me all the time -- the people I love. Maybe I didn't exactly neglect them before, but I certainly didn't pay attention the way I do now.

So on this semi-drunken Yule, I'm grateful to Fortuna for giving me the chance to see things from this perspective, that my friends are all doing pretty well, and that my family is closer than ever. I can't predict the future, but I think the things that happened this year will be the foundation for a phenomenal 2009. It is good to be alive.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. -- Marcus Aurelius


I stumbled on this band a couple of years back at an Irish festival in Murphy's Camp, CA:

creative destruction

Here's an example of how fun it is when a creative sense of humor is combined with a healthy disrespect for The Law:
...students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot more of that kind of thing going around in the next decade, as the suits and crusaders in gov'ment decide to automate.

UPDATE: Here's another one from down under.

Year-End Digest

Saw Marko do this first, but I thought it was pretty interesting so I'll follow his lead. It's cool to see how the year progresses through these brief snapshots. First post of the month and the first sentence is as follows:

April: First Post. "Since I've been bugging youse with links and commentary via email for so long, I figured that it was time to ditch the '90s distribution model and let it all hang out here on teh IntarW3bs."

May: Sig Sauer Mosquito "When I realized that the price of ammo going up for the foreseeable future, I got in the market for a new .22 pistol to train with."

June: On The Road Again "So read the posts I'm sharing in the box over to the right."

July: Not gonna do it "Wouldn't be prudent."

August: More company on the Dark Side "What she said: If the States each had their own citizen militia and had to pay 'em, we'd see a lot less casual use, especially by the Federal level."

September: IF "If the sun weren't shinin'"

October: Interneccine squabbling "There's a fun debate going on with my boys over on Culture11 about Sarah Palin."

November: Showin' u the love "It's not that I don't love you, my dear readers -- I really do."

December: Been gone so long, it looks like back to me "My hiatus from blogging is nearly done."

Back again...

| Cali for the holidays, following which I will be relocating to Las Vegas permanent-like, praise Fortuna. I know that other than the sad incident where I drunk-dialed the Internets, I haven't been posting much over the weekend but there is lots more to come anon.

Funny Web site of the day

Fuck You, Penguin!

Restating the obvious

Following on to my previous post about the persistence of populations in Poland, check out Rajib's pointing out of the obvious to the blinkered and clueless.

incremental change again...

Here's an interesting map:

Isn't it amazing how Poland's 2007 voting patterns correlate so strongly with the old Prussian-Russian border? One would think that after all the massive population movements, genocide, and general mayhem that's gone on in this area for the last hundred years that the political borders would have been meaningless for demographic uses. But clearly not.

American Resurrection

Given my litany of fatalistic observations about the death of the Republic and the decline of our civilization, you might be surprised to find out that I share the general optimism about the future that the Reason boys are emoting:

We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment, the dawning not of some fabled, clichéd, and loosey-goosey Age of Aquarius but a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services. This is now a world where it’s more possible than ever to live your life on your own terms; it’s an early rough draft version of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s glimmering “utopia of utopias.”

While I share this optimism, I also think it is dangerously close to a techno-religious dream. I've seen some very smart people fall into that trap. However, I think this optimistic view doesn't quite cross the threshold into hopeychange. For one reason, it's not incompatible with my view that life in our current civilization is likely to get a lot worse before it gets better because our economic structures are so completely dysfunctional. The coming shift from employer/employee relationships to freelance work will entail some painful adjustments for the symbol manipulation classes (including me). A bankrupt government will be unable to throw money at the problem, although in the long run that's a good thing because people will redevelop all those social safety networks that have atrophied since the Great Society.

Eventually, things will work themselves out, but the amount of corruption and centralization that will have to be overcome guarantees that our American Resurrection will be painful, difficult, and likely bloody. At any rate, I suppose it's up to me to prepare my daughter for living in these interesting times. Anyone who has a stake in the future ought to do the same with those around them who will be yoked to the mistakes of the past -- regardless of with who the fault lies. In the end, I still have hope that the connections the world has made through communications technology will survive and allow the development of a civilization that is decentralized, prosperously efficient, and is much more friendly to freedom than this one.

Incremental change

Oh yes, and read Tam.

She's right that gunnies are like the proverbial frog in the boiling water, as are the taxpayers and those of us who think about liberty. But the racists were also marginalized in this way, as well. This is how cultures change, for the better and for the worse. The incrementalism that she describes is a core insight that one of my incredible professors showed me, one that often comes across to other people as fatalism. It isn't though, I just think that a lot of the efforts that people make towards changing their worlds are misdirected -- usually into mass movements. The best way to influence incremental change is to start with yourself and radiate outwards.

More layout changes

Been working on this instead of writing posts. I like the color spectrum because it illustrates the distributional nature of things, which is one of the core truths I'm trying to understand better.

I'm thinking of using tags, but that means going through the drudgery of tagging my old posts. Poor me.

Also, I decided to stop worrying about posting something all the time just for the sake of posting. It turns blogging into a real drag instead of a joy. But I do have a lot of free-floating junk banging around in my skull so I still plan on posting almost daily. But more is worse, not better as Nock informs me. Feed back is always appreciated, of course.

Anyways, more anon.

Song of the Day

I'm the mother flippin':

Yes, sometimes my rhymes are sexist
but you lovely bitches and ho's should know
I'm trying to correct this.

Close decisions

Beyond the beginner stage, the difference between poker winners and losers is how they handle close decisions. For a lot of hands, the decisions are very easy. If you have the best possible hand, it doesn't take a lot of skill to bet or raise and take down the pot. Likewise, if you have absolutely nothing it's an easy call to fold. Money is made by making good decisions when the chances are close to even.

In a No Limit Hold 'Em tournament tonight, I built a nice stack pretty early on and was one of the chip leaders heading into the later rounds. But the blinds were going up quickly and before too long my stack was dwindling in size and I needed to make a move. When I was in the small blind, someone made a minimum raise early on in the action and it was folded around to me. I looked down and saw 99. So what to do?

First, the hand is clearly too good to fold, so the question is whether to call or raise. By calling, you minimize the amount of money you commit to the pot before seeing the flop. By raising, you have a fair chance of scaring out the one other player to act between you and the raiser (the big blind). This is good because a hand like this is better off with fewer opponents chasing after it. Also, there's the possibility that the original raiser may fold as well. If he doesn't fold, then he either has the pair of nines dominated by a larger pair (less likely) or has two cards larger than nines, which means he's a small underdog. There is also the non-trivial possibility that he's a maniac or an idiot and is raising as a bluff.

So here I decided that a raise is the better move. The next question is how much to raise? My stack was about six times as large as the raise and the raiser's stack was about 10 times the size of the raise. So neither one of us is committed at this point.

Considering all these factors, I decided that an all-in reraise was the best move. It maximizes the chances that I would win the pot immediately. It eliminates the need for more close decisions on the flop, where I have to guess whether or not my opponent made a pair larger than my nines. The pot is too large to fold on the flop and the blinds are increasing way beyond my stack's ability to cope, so I may as well get it all in the middle here.

I'm still not sure if this was the right decision or not. Perhaps it is a bit too much of a gamble, given that I can survive for at least another round or two and hope for a better situation. Early position raisers should be feared, but I put him on a wider range of hands that he would raise with than is correct. A good player wouldn't make that move with too many hands that a pair of nines could beat. I think putting him on this wide range was a mistake in my reasoning that was based on the fact that in general the players in the tournament were of pretty poor quality. But I didn't have a specific read on this specific player, so that general observation is just a shadow of an insight. Even changing this small factor might have been enough to tip the decision the other way.

The result of the hand was that I shoved it all in and the big blind folded (as expected). The original raiser insta-called with his pocket Aces and I finished in 84th place. That's poker!

this is how the human race ends

one culture after another, one individual after another, coupling over the generations to create increasingly cruder offspring, until the race is degenerated into non-native speaking 80's pop star impersonators.

Thanks to the official funny video source at Fortuna's Favor, my friend May.

Crouch down and lick the hand, buddy

The disgusting arrogance in this post makes me want to puke. As I read it, the substance of his point is that these people are anti-social and so the result of locking them away or killing them is worth a few petty violations of human rights. After all the laws are on the books, right?

I am not on this man's side.

Here's Radley Balko's take down, which I linked to at the time, but the comments drew me back in to the discussion. Here's a radical anarchist rebuttal that makes some good points.

The B's knees

From last night's UFC Fight For the Troops here's a nasty, nasty first-round beat-down knockout:

Donate to the cause here.


Not such a big surprise, I suppose:

The Explorer

14% Elegant, 48% Technological, 40% Historical, 100% Adventurous and 17% Playful!

You are the Explorer, the embodiment of steampunk’s adventuring spirit. For you, clothing should be rugged and reliable, and just as functional as it is attractive. You probably prefer khaki or leather, and your accessories are as likely to include weapons as technological gizmos. You probably wear boots and gloves, and maybe a pith helmet. Most of what you wear is functional, and if you happen to wear goggles people had better believe that you use them. In addition to Victorian exploration gear, your outfit probably includes little knickknacks from your various travels. Above all, you are a charming blend of rugged Victorian daring and exotic curiosity.

Take The Steampunk Style Test at HelloQuizzy

second to none?

One of those little bugs that gets under my skin is the Churchillian canard that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other ones".

I suppose it means that even though our political culture sucks, this is as good as it gets. I find this kind of glib bullshit particularly objectionable. In the first place, it's a particularly banal form of fatalism. Far be it for me to argue in favor of political activity, but I at least support the pursuit of knowledge about politics and political theory, which this defense of democracy ignores. If it doesn't ask you to ignore your objections to democracy, at least it whistles past the graveyard.

Second, and possibly more damning, the sentiment is demonstrably untrue as many examples in history illustrate. For one example, the form of government originally set up by the founders (a republic with limited sufferage) was far superior to our current one precisely because it was less democratic. The mob could howl but not legislate. For another example, the small bands of prehistoric humans that roamed the earth for millennia were not organized at all into governments, which seems to be a more natural state of organization for our species. It at least limits our capacity for tyrannical behavior, given our penchant for status signaling and other such stupidities.

But such superior forms of government have often been short-lived in civilized times, which is I suppose their great shortcoming. The fault lies, though, not in the structure (or lack thereof) of these systems but rather with the people who select the leaders. When good government goes bad, it may very well be a leadership problem but it's a safe bet that at bottom the blame lies with the hoi polloi. In our current mass man system, the fulcrum of every election is the "undecideds" -- a cud-chewing herd of ignoramuses who haven't a clue about public policy, but they know what buzz words ring the nicest in their fat, stupid ears. Bah. Any proper form of government requires a better selection process for its leaders than this insipidity.

A limited constitutional monarchy might be a much better form of government than democracy for promoting liberty and freedom. Professor Hans Hoppe has been delving into this thought experiment for some time, and I have to say that I'm half way convinced. At least it'd be easier to know when the time comes who it is that needs hanging.

The Republic Is Dead Again

Every couple of months or so, John Derbyshire emerges from the shadows of conservative media to throw a fatalistic bucket of cold water all over the hopes and dreams of the movement types. By Dis, I admire that.

Here's his latest curmudgeonly rant about the decline and fall of the Anglo-American Empire, channeling good 'ol J. Milton. Excerpt:
It’s all very unfair. Conservatism is being cursed all around by association with George W. Bush, who has not been at all conservative where it matters: fiscal oversight, government spending, national sovereignty, war. Conservatives wept with joy to see him veto whatever it was he vetoed about embryonic stem cells, whatever they are, hardly minding that he had debauched the currency, opened the borders, acquired expensive client states, and turned the burner to full throttle under the welfare state hot-air balloon.


Comments on the new blog template are welcomed. But what I really mean by the redesign is what I've been doing with myself over the last three weeks of light blogging.

First, I've been working on my health and developing my fitness. My health has been a little choppy recently, and I've been on pain medication a bit more than I'd like which makes it hard to focus on anything, much less write. But yoga is a great way to return the body to focus and it's helped me get back to where I am right now.

Second, I've been reading Albert Jay Nock again, which tends to fuck with all my paradigms. Every word in this book is like a cluebat smacked up the side of my head. So my world view has been in a bit of flux (lots more on this over the rest of the week) and the 'ol head has had some spring cleaning. I think I understand myself significantly better than I did before reading the book.

Finally, I've been traveling to see family and also enjoying reconnecting with distant friends via the glories of Facebook. It's a bit too easy for me to hermit myself up when I feel like this, so I've been making sure that the connections with the people I care about remain strong. Since one of the main reasons I started blogging was to stop harassing my friends with my thoughts via email, all this activity cut into my blogging motivations somewhat as well.

So -- body, mind, heart, blog. All redesigned, refocused, renewed. More for you anon.

My Oh My

I love the video about as much as the song:

The slippery slope ends here

It takes a lot for me to be surprised at the folly of man. But by Loki's dark wit, this is starving my brain for oxygen. So stupid I think I'll pass out just from knowing that this is not a joke. (via David Codrea)

Meme of 100

Since the cool kids are doing it, I guess I'll jump off the bridge too (things I've done in bold):

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. Spotted a homeless guy $20 when I was short $50 for my rent...not much I know, but there it is.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain. How could I grow up in the Rockies and not?
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. Up in Alaska, no less!
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. I think guitar counts here, although I took a bunch of lessons after I realized that other people knew things about it that I didn't.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning. Mexican food, of course.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Hopefully, I'll grow all my own veggies someday. But so far, just tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and rhubarb.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train. Several times. Did the nasty once, too!
21. Had a pillow fight. Not with Playboy bunnies on video, though.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Sick days are just a perk of the job -- use 'em or lose 'em! I ain't working for free, here.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon. It's on my list.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise. Been on a yacht for more than a month, but never a cruise ship.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. Also on the list.
35. Seen an Amish community. And the Brethren, who make terrific apple pies!
36. Taught yourself a new language. Probably the most oddball thing I've ever done is to learn Hungarian.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. For about three days one time. Easy come, easy go.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock (wall) climbing. A brief hobby in college.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke. Also once I tried to sing a Korean song in a Korean bar. Lots of good natured laughter ensued.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. Gods, how could I not being from Bozeman?
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa. Egypt and South Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. Just a few weeks ago, actually. Sometimes it's nice to be in California! Not often, though.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. Oh, my poor Vespa! It was never the same again...
47. Had your portrait painted/drawn.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater. Did the nas--- aw, who didn't?
55. Been in a movie. Briefly, Rattle and Hum.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia. The Ukraine doesn't count...
60. Served at a soup kitchen. Ate at one, too.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching. I'll count this, even though it was a drive-by. I was about 10 feet from the eye of a humpback, and he registered me. I could see not just intelligence in his eyes, but personality as well.
63. Got flowers for no reason. Being in dutch with the gf is a reason...
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check. The guy carried it around in his wallet for a year, and the next time I saw him, I paid him back plus fees.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square. Both in the '80s and the '00s -- different worlds.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. See ambulance ride...
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book. Also on the to-do list.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car. And peeled out leaving the parking lot, too!
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible. A few times. Still baffles me that some people can think it is the literal truth.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life. A woman hit crossing the street. I cleared her breathing (she was choking on her tongue) and gave her CPR until the paramedics came. I'll never forget it.
90. Sat on a jury. No lawyer or judge alive would let me.
91. Met someone famous. Several - the most famous would be Bill Clinton, but my favorite was getting Björk to sneak me into a night club when I was just 18.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby. Well, not technically, but...
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit. Nothing too serious, but small claims court counts, right?
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day. I do this at least once a year.

For a total of 66. You?

"Prags" vs. the III

A fascinating blowup occurring over at SayUncle concerning guns, rights, the infringement thereof. Read the comments especially. This is one of the more interesting and dare I say productive discussions I've seen in a while, despite (or perhaps because of) all the name-calling. Kudos to SayUncle for letting it all hang out, unmoderated and uncensored-like.

For the record, I choose to stay off the record.

Eye bleach, please

I'm not sure how to deal with the fact that the one thing censored in this video is the phrase "nuclear war".


Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. -- F. W. Nietzsche


We got wine, whiskey, women and guns
how can ya 'ford not to have any fun
If you're not a right-winger
we'll all have a humdinger

This credit crunch is classic!

Here's the parallel of the week: the Romans experienced a nasty credit crisis in the late days of their republic, as well:
Cicero was arguing that Pompey the Great should be given military command against Mithridates VI, king of Pontus on the Black sea coast of what is now Turkey. He reminded his audience of events in 88BC, when the same Mithridates invaded the Roman province of Asia, on the western coast of Turkey. Cicero claimed the invasion caused the loss of so much Roman money that credit was destroyed in Rome itself.

As the article, helpfully notes, Sulla's dictatorship came shortly after although the historian quoted in the article claims that the two events were unrelated. I suppose it will be for us to prove the relationship...

Been gone so long, it looks like back to me

My hiatus from blogging is nearly done. I had a nice restful holiday, and I hope y'all did too! Doctors visits abound in the near-term, as well as a brief sojurn to Las Vegas, but in the meantime you must read every damn word of Derb's monthly journal. Funnies, insights, writings abound. Excerpt:
We’re pussies about enemy nations, embarking on decades-long, trillion-dollar campaigns to make them love us, instead of quick ten-million-dollar lessons in why they should fear us. Why? Because we seek love and approval, like the furrowed-brow, teary-eyed, compassionate pansies we are.

Lie down with dogs...

and you'll wake up with fleas. Lon Horiuchi is a cold-blooded murderer, plain and simple. The fact that he murdered while in uniform makes his actions worse, not better.

I'm frankly stunned that any firearms company would want to associate themselves with him. What's next -- O.J. Simpson endorsing Ginsu knives?

Home invasions are the problem

What he said.

Federalism -- the cause and the cure

I greatly enjoyed reading Mr. Will's article on the Second Amendment and the problems posed by the recent Heller decision affirming that it protects an individual right. The problems posed, however, are caused not by the Heller decision, but by the aftermath of the Civil War. When the individual state no longer became the main political force in the Union (roughly when the United States became "is" instead of "are"), our rights became nationalized as well.

The article is correct in that the Founders originally were referring only to the Federal government in the Bill of Rights, and that by an originalist interpretation, the Constitution should not bar state legislators and city councilmen from passing whatever crazed prohibitions fly through their ditty little heads. But that all changed when the national government took over as the protector of citizens' rights. Now we have a hallowed document with a first-order replication error that can only be fixed by democratic means through amendment or a constitutional convention.

Of course, the fact that the solution needs to be democratic guarantees the complete absence of common sense and moderation (much less wisdom) in any attempt to make simple reforms, such as returning these questions to the states. Unintended consequences accumulate in any political body, much like mutations in unstable genomes. That's why Jefferson was in favor of pitching the whole thing overboard every generation or so and starting afresh.

happy Obama moment

On my way out the door, but I just heard the President elect pronounce Peter Orszag's Hungarian last name correctly. Yay! This is probably the high point for me in his presidency, but at least the man is erudite.

It's better to burn out...

...than to fade away!

So I am going to Vegas today
and I don't expect to be blogging over the holiday
but from time to time I may
although this news might fill your heart with dismay
to great Odin's ravens I pray
that you have other things to do.

Big, Big, Monkey Man

On this date a mere one and a half centuries ago, the mental landscape of man's world was forever changed. Until Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the question of how we came to exist was unanswerable, except to appeal to a religious deity's omnipotence. With Darwin, we finally grasped the methodology of our inception and thus a gained a further understanding of randomness, distributional outcomes, and fitness. He wiped the mud from our eyes to let us gaze on our lady Fortuna, the mother of us all. We are made not from infinite power or infinite knowledge, but from her infinite beauty.

Newsie news

Hey there, friends and readers. Fortuna's business is this:

the fires are mostly out. Whew.

New shooter session at the range today. I'm bringing .22LR by the truckload to load up into my Sig Sauer Mosquito and my CZ 452 Lux. Yay!

After a bit of a dry spell, Fortuna smiled and put me in the money in a decent-sized online tournament. Yay again! I love it when a 7-low holds up against three draws in Razz.

Writing resumes anon...

off to the SB

I seem to be spending more and more time there. This weekend, I am getting rid of some unwanted things at a friend's yard sale and also going to the range to see if there's any damage from the fire. More later - happy Friday!

we need this in football

I can totally envision an American version of the haka happening at the Raiders/Broncos game:

Go ahead and speculate how it would be Americanized in the comments.

UPDATE: OK, you guys suck. Not even one comment? Puh-leez.

This wins teh internets

Clip from Der Untergang, revised for modern problems:

[found on BoingBoing]


Gods, I can be such an idiot. After positing the opinion that marketing is not conspiratorial (in my post on the media last week), my petard has fuckin' hoist me.

All this time, I just assumed that Facebook was just crawling with 'single over 30' dating ads because that's a big part of their demographic. Then I updated my profile to include some of my interests, and in addition to the Single Over 30 ads, up came the UFC Apparel and the Scuba Diving Academy ads.

I stand corrected -- it is a conspiracy. The robots give us a platform for entertainment, and in return we feed them information. A mindless and (to date) harmless conspiracy, but there it is.

More on the financial crisis

As the dust settles, the received opinion on the cause of the credit market crash is generally in line with I wrote in my post back when the crash really got going. But dashing off a blog post and delving into the details to tell the whole story are two very different things. Fortunately, here is an absolutely terrific piece on the subject by Michael Lewis, who wrote the seminal work on Wall Street in the '80s, Liar's Poker. He is a terrific writer and savvy enough to see through most of the bullshit that the financial world uses to cover up its incompetence and thievery.

In addition to covering how the risk modeling and credit rating analysis was utterly bogus, he points out several features of Wall Street culture that helped create the crisis. One notable point he makes is that the big banking houses, which used to be privately owned, are now publicly-traded companies. This made for a totally screwed up incentive system:
No investment bank owned by its employees would have levered itself 35 to 1 or bought and held $50 billion in mezzanine C.D.O.’s. I doubt any partnership would have sought to game the rating agencies or leap into bed with loan sharks or even allow mezzanine C.D.O.’s to be sold to its customers. The hoped-for short-term gain would not have justified the long-term hit.

The writer combines a good understanding of the nuts and bolts of finance with a piercing eye for the very human motivations that drive decisions in the world of high finance. So hie thee hence and read the whole thing!

Egregious time waster of the day

I've been surfing through these old Life magazine photos that Google has put online. It's interesting to see not only how much people's fashions have changed, but also how differently the conception of portraiture and photography change.

I particularly like the pictures of the Hawaiian girls in the 1940's and the portraiture of the 1890's.

Books, Books, Books

The ennui hiatus continues as I fill my blogging time with reading books and mudding on Facebook. Books I've read in the past week include:

The Steel Bonnets is a historical review by George MacDonald Fraser (the author of the hilarious Flashman series) that is filled with interesting characters. Bonnets is an amazing account of how tough and violent the border marches between Scotland and England were in Elizabethan times. Comparatively, the Wild West was a girl's school gym class. The descendants of these frontiersman and border reivers (including my ancestors) went on to subdue Northern Ireland and then the American frontier in turn. Violent and resistant to authority, they were, but also very brave and honorable in their own way.

World Made by Hand, which is a post-apocalypse novel that explores the world long after the apocalypse is over rather than focusing on how the immediate disaster is survived. In this world, the technology and infrastructure that civilization depends on has been destroyed. People have to learn new (and old) ways to cope. Kunstler shows how different groups might adopt different coping strategies, and how those strategies might conflict with each other. Needless to say, the moral environment is pretty complex which is one of the great points in favor of post-apocalyptic settings for a novelist.

The God Delusion is Richard Dawkins' latest diatribe against the religious mind. It starts out well, outlining the various arguments against common objections to atheism. But it falls off into a smug dismissal of value systems that don't agree with his own utilitarianism. There are solid secular reasons why some people share moral positions with religious people (for example anti-abortion -- which I won't get into here; email me if you want), but Dawkins treats any difference of opinion with his secular humanist liberalism as essentially irrational. I absolutely loved his book The Selfish Gene, which helped inform my understanding of evolution, but he should really be a little more considered in his public policy thinking.

The Pushcart War was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. It is the story of a fictional turf war between the big bad commercial trucks and the pushcart vendors of New York City. I wanted to read it again as an adult to see if it was really as funny as I remembered. It is.


An absolute classic by PJ on how the conservatives have blown it. Funny, timely excerpt:

Anyway, it's no use blaming Wall Street. Blaming Wall Street for being greedy is like scolding defensive linemen for being big and aggressive. The people on Wall Street never claimed to be public servants. They took no oath of office. They're in it for the money. We pay them to be in it for the money. We don't want our retirement accounts to get a 2 percent return. (Although that sounds pretty good at the moment.)

What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That's not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. "Jeeze, 230 pounds!" But you can't pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters--all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs--think so too.

The article is about a lot more than that, but I think you get the gist.

In other news, my apologies for the sparse writing I've been doing since I got back from Yosemite. It's a little bit sick, but it's also a lot ennui. Hopefully it will subside soon, but if not my friend Jeff, who is a regular commenter here At War With Luck, has agreed to write some prolefeed up for ya to keep your gullets full up.

Dark Political Thoughts

1. The welfare state will only grow as the economic hardship created by socialization of losses grips our society.

2. When given the choice between freedom and security, the people have repeatedly and decisively chosen security.

3. The crudest and most barbarous religious sentiments are the foundation of society's ethics. Without the fear of God to restrain the mob, robbery, rape, and murder would destroy civilization.

4. Libertarianism is wrong, in that it assumes people will act rationally. The more we know about psychology and the physiology of the brain, the more we understand how fundamental irrationality is to human nature.

5. The Golden Age is ending. For people like me who have a visceral desire for a little more disorder, we are going to get a full, nasty dose of it. For the majority who want order and security, they will only find it through losing their sanity.

Apocalypse now


The fires get closer and closer. First they locked me in Santa Barbara and now they are closing in on me in Santa Clarita. Gods below, how have I offended thee?


It was an amazing time up there. It's not nearly as wild as Yellowstone, but a little civilization has its charms, like humping a couple of miles to the resort for a late-night scotch.


Media bias?

The media’s bucket is already overfull with blame for civilization’s malaise and I don’t wish to add to it, but merely to suggest that the source of the sickness is to be found in the patient herself. America says that she wishes to cure the problems of our national discourse by addressing media bias and hysteria, but America is really the drunk who can’t keep stop chugging the beer bong.

The deconstructivist critique of the media makes a legitimate point to add to the discussion: news/infotainment has the volume permanently dialed up to eleven in a cacophony of hysteria and fear. The professional hyperfocus on even the most pedestrian tragedies lasts far beyond the viewership’s attention span, but fortunately there are frequent breaks in the action that can be filled with happy tidings about helpful products that will solve your early-60’s boner issues, or keep your spine from turning into an osteoperotic goo after a lifetime of malnourishment from Weight Watchers and Mickey D’s. Consume consume consume!

This is the opinion offered from the depths of Marxist academia. But as is typical of the reality-challenged intelligentsia, an interesting if ugly insight is subsumed by the stupid, counterproductive, and very human desire to mold that truth to fit their world view. In the end, for them it always seems to boil down to men in smoky rooms greedily oppressing the Good in the naked pursuit of profits. When the truth is a complicated and unresolvable mess people will invariably discard the truth in favor of a pleasing and well-crafted fiction, intellectual or no.

Conspiracy theories are often convenient fictional answers that people will grasp on to in hopes of avoiding the chaos of uncertainty. In the case of the media, I think there is actually very little conspiring going on (unless one considers marketing to be conspiratorial). If the news is sensationalist and fear-mongering, that is because the viewership wants to be massaged with titillating dangers. The media that America gets is the media that America wants.

The complaints against our shallow and hysterical media are actually against the free flow of ideas. Today’s myopic consumerist media is possibly the perfect representation of mankind’s baser hopes and imaginations; perhaps it is more descriptive of the human condition than all of the high art ever produced. The herd runs around and around in circles, unaware of its own lack of direction and titillated by the rush.

More culture shock

I saw this eerie virtual toy marketing video via Susannah Breslin:

Reminds me, like that Korean video I posted a long time ago, what different mental landscapes we live in from our friends in the Far East.

Humor knows no allies

Nice to see that the Onion will be an equal opportunity snark machine:

I wonder what the Daily Show is going to look like now? I hope it can bridge the gap...

Can haz return

Just pulled in from the offline world. I spent an extra day up in the hills to make up for a sick day I had to take. But in the end fun was had, long walks were taken, and whisky was imbibed.

More to come later after the noon...

Quote 'o da doo da day

I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk. —H. L. Mencken

The Joooos

Why the hell does America always go to bat for Israel? This seems to be a fully bipartisan insanity, and one that makes little sense to me, other than in crude coalitional terms. You have the Jews for the Democrats and the apocalyptic Christian fundies for the Republicans. OK, I get it. But it seems to me that vast herds of voters for both parties accept this pap unquestioningly.

I'm happy that their is a relatively free democracy in the Middle East, and that the Jews have their homeland. After the Holocaust the West decided that they deserved it, and after some plucky guerrilla fighting against the Brits and Arabs they won it for themselves. I don't mind that we continue to send Israel arms and offer them good will. But the USA has spent the better part of two generations being militarily involved in the Middle East's business, and I fail to see how our unquestioning support of Israel's position has benefited us in any way over that term. From a Realpolitik perspective, it seems to make no sense at all. Comments? Please -- enlighten me!

Elvis is still the King

As someone who is largely on the libertine side of things, I often find myself on the opposite side of cultural issues from my conservative brothers and sisters (not all of them or all of the time, of course). I think I still belong more on the right than the left, mostly because I cling to my guns, I listen to alt-country & bluegrass, and I think society should be molded to human nature and not vice versa. Despite my self-identification as a man of the Right, the mental world that religious fundamentalists and reactionaries inhabit is still very alien to me.

While it’s tempting to dismiss reactionary opinions as ignorant and fear-driven, those motivations are beside the point. Because whether it’s comfortable to us high-minded types or not, the reactionaries are usually right. For example, consider the contemporary reaction to Elvis, which went something like:
Satan! This music and dancing will lead to sex! Miscegenation, irreligion, and licentiousness!

Look around you -- they were right. We now live in a world of secularism, interracial relationships and general promiscuity. There's no social penalty for an atheist girl who boinks men from all different races without even knowing their names. Hell, they even have a TV show for a girl like that. The old culture that the fundies were defending is dead. Elvis and what he represented destroyed it. There were massive changes to our culture as a consequence, and we lost some very good things. Personally, I think the world is a better place now, on balance, than it was before Elvis. We have a greater depth of experience and the freedom to explore it now, for good or ill.

What the reactionaries tend to focus on is what is to be lost, while the revolutionaries devalue that to focus on what is to be gained. Perhaps it is possible even in the moment to foresee the consequences of some social changes and find a way to embrace them while also conserving some of the things from the past that are worth keeping. I think it behooves us as enlightened men to see through our own condescending prejudices as we are able and consider what we lose by not listening to the reactionaries.

What a day for tyrants!

Perhaps someone could consult a numerologist to explain why so many tyrants had success on this day.

1494 d'Medicis take over Florence. Aside from a few things like patronizing one of the great artistic periods in the history of man, they also tyrannized most of Europe for another two hundred years.
1799 Napoleon leads the coup that ends the French Directorate, and proceeds to kick ass way beyond the point where it does him any good. Defeat ensues, thank Fortuna.
1917 Stalin enters the provisional government of the USSR. And there was much rejoicing (in the Ukraine, especially).
1938 Kristallnacht. 'Nuff said.
1985 Gari Kasparov becomes the youngest World Chess Champion in history, and tyrannizes the game for the next 15 years.

Trader advice

An update on my previous trading recommendation: With the outcome of the election decided, gun sales are through the roof! Sell a couple of AR lowers into the panic and then restock them in about three months.

While I'm in here with the trader advice, let me offer you a giant mea culpa. I dramatically, completely dropped the ball on the dollar. Yes, I may be proved right in the long run (and I still think I will be), but for trading purposes it was a wrong call. I certainly didn't expect the world to buy the dollar as a "flight to safety" move.

And silver is dead to me in comparison to gold. With the global recession on hand, the industrial value of silver declines in importance when comparing it to gold. Given the poor upside in silver vs. gold over the last few years, maybe it's played out as an investment idea. Still, it might be good to keep a percentage of your precious metals exposure in there in case I'm (again) too early in my call.

And if you're not part of a full-time 24-hour trading operation, always always use stops!

Mohammed to the mountain...

...or CounterClckWise to the mountains, at least. I'm off to Yosemite for a long weekend's rest in the fresh air. I've got plenty of prolefeed lined up for y'all, though so keep checking back daily. But if I don't answer emails or comments for a few days then it's not because I hate you -- I love each and every one of you individually, whoever you are. It's because no one is minding the store. But comments will remain switched on because the Internet is a happy, happy place.

Obama as racial healer

As the nation digests the news that Mr. Obama will be our next President, the common sense of things is that if nothing else his victory represents a milestone in racial relations. The article quoted below is only one of many examples:
Whatever you think of policy, the mere fact of electing a black man president, sending him to live in the nation's most iconic, so far whites only house, would puncture holes through the myth of black inferiority, violating America's racial narrative so fundamentally as to forever change the way this country thinks of blacks, and the way blacks think of this country—and themselves.

In some ways I suppose this is true, in that he is now First Citizen by popular acclamation and will wield all the power commensurate with the office of President. The fact that he is black was a very attractive element to his candidacy, but I fear the commentators, relaxing in the afterglow of the election, have overlooked that Mr. Obama's ascendancy may actually worsen race relations rather than improve them.

From what I've seen of him so far, Mr. Obama seems intelligent, fairly cool under fire and somewhat cautious -- all promising traits for a president who is going to be responsible for dealing with so many problems. But he's also remarkably inexperienced, insular, and espouses a political dogma that is religion-like in its magical thinking. All of these character traits are likely to come into play during his term in office and will probably be magnified by the sweeping events he is likely to face -- recession, war, insolvency.

What concerns me is simply this: what if he sucks? I don't mean doing things I disagree with, but rather what if he turns out to be generally incompetent to handle the rigors of the office? He has no executive experience, so it's not too far fetched to imagine. For another thing, what if he gets mired in corruption or some other political scandal? He did, after all, rise from the Chicago machine so that possibility can't be dismissed.

I'd think that he's impeachment-proof almost regardless of what he does because of his race. Even with lesser scandals, Mr. Obama will likely enjoy solid racial solidarity beyond what the white urban liberals would tolerate (which is a lot; they are masters of doublethink). I can easily imagine a scenario where the President's political difficulties would be seen by black folks as Jim Crow's ugly shadow. By 2012 (or 2016) the alienation of african-americans from other -americans could be far worse as they felt a renewed sense of oppression and racial separateness.

I'm not saying it's likely, or even commenting on the odds at all beyond the fact that the possibility exists. I'm just pointing out that the post-election euphoria could have a mirror image on the dark side.

Gun Nutty Election Night

Found via Sebastian, this is easily worth a thousand words.

Roberta X's Diary

This is teh bom:

Most Esteemed Diary,

At Education today in the Sharing, before we ate our beans and rice, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Dear Leader's gift of a new puppy to his obedient daughters.

Read the whole thing.

Why your vote doesn't matter

I've been working on a couple of posts but I've been going through a rough week health-wise that's been making it hard to write. I don't want to offer too much in the way of excuses but that's why things have been a little...curt around here lately. But regular programming should resume shortly I hope and in the meantime here's a reference that I should have linked many times before -- an excellent article on Slate explaining why your vote doesn't matter.

Exercising my right

And it was much more fun than voting! The first election day in my adult life where I was a non-voter was more productive than all the previous election days put together.

In defense of quitting

So the big day is finally here, as are the exhortations ad nauseum to Get Out And Vote. I see this message everywhere I look today, from the vacuous media bobbleheads to many of the bloggers that I respect and read regularly. Again I find myself separated from the herd and its safety. The opinion that it is my duty to vote is in my view a fallacy. But if the requirement of participating in civil society is to register my opinion, then I choose to do it here. So to Make My Voice Heard, I emphatically say:

I Refuse

Aside from my previously mentioned opinion that voting is essentially a meaningless signaling act, it also signals many things with which I disagree. I disagree in principle with the "one man, one vote" structure of our democracy. I disagree that many of the subjects up for the vote are properly handled by mob opinion. I disagree that the party system fosters in any way a competent structure of governance. I disagree that being one of 120 million voters means I have stood up and been counted. I disagree that voting is the same thing as patriotism. I disagree that voting is the same thing as freedom. I disagree that my forebears fought for the vote rather than liberty.

My view of democracy is essentially a utilitarian one, not a moral one. Democracy is good insofar as it provides a check on corruption and abuse of power. It is a tool that can be used to protect liberty, but it is not liberty in itself. When it ceases to do its job, then it's time to put the tool away and use a different one that actually works.

I don't think there's anything to do about it; I certainly don't think there's a need for another revolution (at least yet). The system is just beginning to enter the final stage wherein it destroys itself. What comes out of its destruction is an interesting question, and one that occupies a large part of my political thought. I hope for a short tyranny followed by a radical decentralization that fosters a rebirth of liberty, but that is an outcome that is almost certainly beyond my lifetime. Voting certainly isn't going to do anything to bring it about, and so I decline to participate. Instead, I'll be at the range. Enjoy yourselves watching the show -- I know I will, even though I have no dog in the fight.

UPDATE: Peter Suderman makes a more eloquent defense of the case on Culture11.

Go Tigers!

I know y'all are obsessed with the election, but while no one's been looking, the CC Tigers are the #1 ranked team in the country. Wow, what a goalie!

Showin' u the love

It's not that I don't love you, my dear readers -- I really do. I'll be back with some red meat tomorrow. Today the beach is beautiful and the range is half-empty so I'll be back when the skies darken


Dude, where's my bailout?

Happy Halloween

CounterClckWise holiday! Costumes will be mandatory -- the scarier the better. I'm going to a party as a lottery winner, which is likely the scariest thing this side of decadence.

Before the Dawn -- human prehistory

As a follow-up to the two engaging books that Brian Sykes wrote about how we can trace our ancestors through DNA, I recently finished reading Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade. The book is a survey of the current research into humanity’s prehistoric (up to 50,000 years ago!) lives and cultures through DNA analysis, anthropology, and archaeology. The writing is refreshingly un-PC—in fact, the author gets pretty far along before even acknowledging the social discomforts that some might feel learning the results of this research. The fundamental point of the book is that evolution has not stopped for man, but rather it has been powerfully shaped by the environments that he has created for himself.

Among the many, many interesting things I learned from reading the book is that primitive man was a far more violent creature than we thought. The idyllic peaceful Eden is an unfounded myth. Mankind lived in bands of 50–150 people that hunted and foraged over territory whose borders were defined by constant conflict with neighboring bands. Wade estimates that nearly one in three men died in this incessant warfare and that nearly all men were engaged in combat many times throughout their lives. The social structure was likely very egalitarian until people began building permanent settlements and developing social hierarchies some 10,000 years ago. It’s clear how so much of the basic nature of man that was selected for and shaped by this environment is in conflict with the settled, domesticated lives that we lead today.

The author argues that even today we are undergoing further natural selection towards a more domesticated society that is better able to trust strangers (e.g., non-kin). One of the pieces of physical evidence that supports this argument is the fact that human skulls have gotten progressively thinner over the last few thousand years. What's amazing is not that the Vikings raped and pillaged a thousand years ago, but that their progeny have such a peaceful culture.

But is this domestication really for the best? Sure, it may be the most profitable way to seed the gene pool but I rebel against the idea that we should turn into a bunch of sheep. Heinlein wrote about people self-domesticating in Beyond The Horizon. In the end, the society was destroyed by a small group of people who refused to undergo gene therapy to remove the violence from their nature. They just herded up the sheep and ate the whole flock. That would be my progeny, too.


Andrew Bacevich has a brilliant and timely article up in commonweal magazine about the crisis we are facing by having all-volunteer armed forces. I was struck by the point that we've created a mercenary army in which the elites (who don't serve) pay the lower classes to implement their policies. The radical split between the decision-making class and the fighting classes could be very problematic. Anyways, read the whole thing.

First, kill all the lawyers...

and then the stupid-ass jurists! I don't think I'll ever stop being amazed at how stupid people can be. Exhibit A is the Quizno's marketing campaign:

What's really amazing is that some lawyers think it's necessary to flash "Dramatization: Do not attempt" on this. And it probably is necessary! Because some moronic jury is likely to award some evil lawyer and his idiot charge a huge settlement for choking on a five-dollar bill. And thus civilization retards the development of mankind and drops our species one more rung down the evolutionary ladder.

Goldberg elaborated on this general decline re: Wile E. Coyote.

the tragic demise of baseball

The rainout of Sunday night's World Series game really pissed me off. It was, I think, illustrative of several problems in the institution of professional baseball. For one thing, baseball shouldn't even be played this far into the harvest. We're already a month into Fall! A game whose source is found in the rhythms of agricultural society should stay connected to those rhythms. If it were three weeks ago, the weather would typically be much better -- even if it rained, at least it wouldn't be 40 frickin' degrees outside. I have hit baseballs in weather like that and it hurts every bone in your body.

I also think it ridiculous that the games don't get started until 8:30 PM. I understand that this is to maximize advertising revenue, but it also shuts out the kids and probably a lot of casual fans as well.

In short, baseball is being run to maximize current profit at the expense of longer-term health of the organization. Sounds like a typical problem in our society, and I think it is. If there's one thing American institutions suck at more than anything else, it is long-term planning.

Baseball also looks a lot like the rest of corporate America in that it's totally in bed with the government. Putting aside the sweetheart property and tax deals that the franchises get from the local governments, professional baseball is actually a protected monopoly that's effectively regulated through Congress, who allows the enterprise to be run by a dictator for life.

None of this is very appealing, but it would be bearable if it didn't directly interfere in the game so much. What's needed is a sweeping change by the broom of ree-form! Since it is our elected officials who have real control over the game's management, I suggest we appoint a Commissioner of the game who would implement the following modest changes:

1. Affordable tickets-- tickets are either $10 (infield) or $5 (outfield). No season tickets -- the good seats have to be shared.

2. Cheap food and drinks--since the stadiums are built by the taxpayers, make it a buck for a beer or a dog.

3. Who's going to pay for all that lost revenue? The players! Implement a single salary system: $10,000 per game per player flat salary (that's $1.62 million for a full season). Full health and (minimal) retirement bennies for life after five years in the game.

Imagine the limits this would put on free agency! Rather than rooting for an empty brand-name logo, we'd actually have some team continuity from year to year. The stars would make their money from endorsements (or play football) and the fans could afford to actually take their families to the games more often.

Oh, and for the owners:
4. Games start at 6 PM local time (except day games, of course). Most kids could manage to make it through the ninth.

5. No more revenue sharing. Of course the Yankees should be more valuable than the Brewers! If Bud Selig doesn't like it, then he should buy the damn Yankees! With my salary cap, it's not like he'd need it anyway.

Think all of this is silly? Well, the fact that baseball is run as a quasi-socialist enterprise is pretty silly in my mind. Better to open it up completely or go whole hog and socialize it. Sort of like the problems we're experiencing in American business as a whole. We sure do suck at long-term planning, and baseball's slow demise is as good of proof as any.

Doom mongering

Check out this fantastic editorial by Mr. Laffer (he of the Laffer curve) in the Journal the other day.

...To alleviate the obvious hardships to both homeowners and banks, the government commits to buy mortgages and inject capital into banks, which on the face of it seems like a very nice thing to do. But unfortunately in this world there is no tooth fairy. And the government doesn't create anything; it just redistributes. Whenever the government bails someone out of trouble, they always put someone into trouble, plus of course a toll for the troll. Every $100 billion in bailout requires at least $130 billion in taxes, where the $30 billion extra is the cost of getting government involved.

If you don't believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they'll do with Wall Street.

The fun has just begun...

Patience, precious...

I'm coming back to play -- really. Just gimme a little time out while I get my head on straight after all that yummy yummy vicodin I took.

Until tomorrow, then. In the meantime, here's a prolefeed meme from Marko:

Five really interesting/beautiful foreign places I’ve visited:
Cape Town, South Africa
The border region of Bavaria and Austria
Milan, Italy
The Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia
Cozumel, Mexico

Five countries that are high up on my List of Places I Want To See:

If I could speak one more language fluently, I’d like to be able to speak:
Spanish (it's next)

If I had to trade my citizenship for another one, I’d most likely move to:
Zug, Switzerland

Sick day

I'm on drugs and grumpy. G'way! I'll talk to you later. In the meantime, read this heresy that is keeping my grump shiny.

p.s. note that this was published in 1917! A true rebel before his time.

Reasons to stay in

Saturday looks like an awfully busy sports day, what with the World Series and the Silva-Cote fight. But hopefully I can also get to watch the championship bout of the RPS on teh IntrarW3bs:

By the way, last week's Bisbing-Leben fight was amazing. I can't wait to see Bisbing try to survive Silva -- hopefully the fight will be in Las Vegas so I can see it live!

The Remnant

I've mentioned one of my favorite American thinkers Albert Jay Nock's concept of the Remnant a few times but without elaboration, so here's the original article from which the idea generates. Hie thee hence and get ur think on!

I think it's an important idea for motiviational purposes but the concept is often misunderstood, especially as no one knows who is or is not a member of the Remnant. The Remnant is only an answer to the question of what is the point of howling at the moon.


Via one of my Facebook buddies:

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Talpra Magyar!

Tam notes that today is the anniversary of the Budapest uprising that became the Hungarian revolution of 1956. When I lived in eastern Hungary I got some variant perspectives about the uprising (the USSR's lackey government set it self up in the eastern part of the country). The standard propaganda line (which quite a few people still believed) was that it was 'just a few students' and that most of the country wasn't involved. This is a tough lie to swallow when you see the bullet holes in the walls of buildings throughout the country, but people have an amazing capacity to delude themselves when it serves their interests.

The Hungarian world view is heavily loaded with fatalism, boosted by a dose of Professor de la Paz-style rebelliousness:
Revolution is an art that I pursue rather than a goal I expect to achieve. Nor is this a source of dismay; a lost cause can be as spiritually satisfying as a victory.

So today, tip a beer for the Hungarians -- but don't clink your glasses together! That's what the Russian and Hapsburg generals did after defeating the 1848 Hungarian revolution, so in Hungary they just slam the bottom of the glass on the table before drinking. Egészségedre!

UPDATE: Sorry, forgot to mention -- the title of the post means 'Rise Up Hungarians!' and comes from Petőfi's poem Nemzeti Dal.

CCW Holiday

Take me out to the ball game!

World Series time; as I posted earlier, this is one of the major religious festivals on my calendar. I'm petitioning Fortuna for seven games of good baseball, and I don't care who wins.


Via Breda, here's a funny on gun control by Cap'n Kirk himself:

The delusion of grandeur

One of the greatest endowments that humanity has received from nature is the ability to completely and utterly delude ourselves. Some Darwinian philosophers may opine that man is what he is through other physical or mental traits, but surely the ability to delude himself is the trait that most separates man from the beasts.

Certainly, this talent for self-delusion is not always benign. History is littered with stories of the foolish missteps that even the most brilliant and competent people are apt to make as a result of deluded optimism, from Caesar's unarmed appearance at the Senate House to the jubilance that greeted the Munich Agreement. Modern people like to look back and laugh at the silly delusions that their forebears held, but they invariably overlook the prevalent idiocies in their own heads. From the great to the small, all of mankind views themselves through a misty and sentimental veil. For example, I think it likely that Mr. Bush really believes that he has been a good President, and likewise that a girl wearing low-cut jeans to let her love handles hang out believes she looks sexy.

Mankind would never have risen from the muck without a deluded self-regard to propel him upward. Whenever man looks at himself with a cold, unsentimental eye the result is invariably something self-destructive like artistry or alcoholism. The delusion that a professor is smart, that the ATF is honest, or that a priest is moral is also responsible for every lurch forward of civilization, albeit through billions of trials and errors and a fair amount of dumb luck.

Random thoughts on Palin

What happens to Sarah Palin after the GOP ticket goes down in flames? After further exposure to her since my first post after her selection, I suspect she will continue to be a force in national politics, but she won't be on the top of the ticket for a while without a serious policy makeover. She's the anti-Hillary -- the left despises her as deeply as the right despises the junior senator from New York. Palin will be most useful in her current role as attack dog/crack for the base, until she gets the opposite of a Clinton makeover. Since she's clearly heterosexual (unlike Hillary), she doesn't need softening so much as sculpting. Perhaps Kissinger will spend the next couple of years giving her an education.

I suspect that she's a lot brighter than she has let on in the national campaign, although she's almost certainly no intellectual. No self-respecting intellectual has the kind of self-discipline and cunning it would take to play dumb for this long. But a Machiavellian power player certainly would. And she's clearly very capable.

While she has tapped into a large reservoir of support, Palin is likely a dead end for conservatives unless she shifts on foreign policy. The National Greatness, Neoconservative foreign policy stuff is likely over with on the Right for a while (although not on the Left!) and the GOP's most productive topic of meditation while in the wilderness is probably a return to it's curmudgeonly roots -- less government, lower taxes, get the hell of my lawn kind of thing. Otherwise, the GOP will lose more and more conservatives. Even a President Obama won't be able to shove his opponents into their arms unless those arms are open.

Rule by mob

The Wall Street Journal put up an interesting Cassandra editorial, decrying the likely dominance of the Democrat's hard left-wing after Mr. Obama takes over the Executive branch. The Journal's editorial staff is right, in that I don't think the American voters know what they are doing. I also don't think they would much care if they did. Aside from their uncritical view of the socialist pap they've been spoon fed since childhood (which I've written about before), I believe that what this country's citizenry wants from its government is to be babied. Every election, the choice is between the Mommy party and the Daddy party and this time we are getting the Mommy.

I say hooray and good luck to my neighbors and countrymen. To deny the people what they want so strongly would be a great injustice. As Mr. Mencken so eloquently put it: "Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." If that's the definition, then by the gods I'm a democrat.

Of course, the results of the next one-party government will merely be another drunken stumble towards the next crisis that the people demand their masters solve. I'd wager my $450,000 share of the banking bailout that the next crisis will also involve spending the amassed wealth of our forebears, with our grandchildren's inheritance thrown in. To quote Tytler:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.

I remember Colby Cosh remarking some time ago that the 200-year timeline is remarkably close to where we are now, and speaks highly of Tytler's predictive capability. It is my view that the American experiment is in the transition from the apathy stage to the dependence stage. The nation is already heavily dependent on the government, and the next decade will likely reinforce this trend until the dependence is almost total (Don't believe America is already dependent? Imagine eliminating social security pensions and the new prescription drug benefit). Dictatorship is likely a generation or two away, but the slide towards it is already accelerating.

Plato argues that it is better to be ruled by a bad tyrant than be a bad democracy, and I agree insofar as it's easier to know who to hang. But bad democracy also has its good points; for one thing, it's pretty damn funny. For another, there's a window in its development right before the dive into tyranny where the system is completely incapable of doing anything well -- it's almost like anarchy, which is the form of government most analogous to liberty. So for those few mad souls who like to be free, this is our time. Enjoy the now! Après nous le déluge...