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