Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Too tacticool for you.

This is the funniest thing I've seen in a while.  Ima be gigglin' for a week.

Okay, you do have to be a certain minimum quantity of "gun geek" to get full value out of this, but the basic joke is clear enough.  And I do love it when gunnies can poke fun at themselves.  "We, the besieged" need all of that we can get.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Leveraging grief for fun and profit.

Grigg and Silber weigh in on the recent "movie massacre" in Aurora, Colorado.  We've already established that the usual blood-dancers are predictably whipped up, organized, and pushing with all due vigor, but these writers offer some larger context.

Grigg, in his typical incomparable fashion, offers this observation upon learning that "the murderer of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki announced that he would travel to Colorado to bless the traumatized city of Aurora with his healing presence":

When drone-fired missiles wipe out wedding parties and funerals; when drone operators exploit the panic and chaos of an initial strike to stage follow-up attacks targeting emergency personnel – these acts are consecrated by the Dear Leader’s approval, and thus cannot be compared to the rampage committed by a private individual responsible for killing a dozen people and wounding scores of others in Aurora.

Oh, right, I do tend to forget those things. 

Silber, in his likewise inimitable style, makes the same basic observation, but even more broadly.

Keeping in mind the murders regularly committed by the U.S. government, and the murders of innocent human beings regularly ordered by Obama himself, we must recognize that [Obama's] remarks are the equivalent of the expressions of grief offered by the serial killer in my fictional exercise. These are the remarks of a man who has suffered an irreparable break with reality, a man who who has rendered himself unable to connect obviously related facts. If Obama genuinely meant these comments -- if he understood how these remarks apply with far greater force to him ("we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this") -- his realization of the monster he has allowed himself to become would reduce him to gibbering incoherence for the remainder of his life. In varying degrees, the same is true of any individual who remains in the national government at this point.

More generally, this is American culture today. Like the killer in my story, many Americans hurl themselves with fundamentally false, deeply disturbed enthusiasm into public demonstrations of grief over the needless deaths of some human beings -- those human beings they see as being much like themselves, when the deaths happen in what could be their own neighborhood. As for all the murders committed by their government with a systematic dedication as insane as that of any serial killer: silence.

Please do chase both of those links, and read their whole contents.  There is much, much more than these excerpts, and it's all relevant.

And share.  These are conversations the nation should be having, but isn't.

Do you understand?

From The Agitator, two realities:
The Los Angeles Times: Angry Anaheim Crowd Threw Bottles at Police, Set Fires on Streets

Reason: Anaheim Cops Shoot Rubber Bullets, Unleash Dog on Crowd Protesting Police Shooting

One would scarcely know they were talking about the same thing.

And via Claire, yet another installment of "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose":
Wow. Just wow. Put yourself in this position: You inherit a multi-media work by a famous artist. However, because of the media used, the federal government forbids you to sell it. You’d go to prison if you did. So every appraiser says its value is $0. Ah, but not the IRS. They not only want millions in taxes, but the penalties are heaping up and up and up …

In our post-absurd world, it's quite possible that "the tax grown-ups at the IRS" will decide, in their infinite benevolence and grace, to publicly tut-tut about the unfortunate circumstance here and "grant" this case a pass--and then revel not only in their freshly updated kinder, gentler image, but also their total absolution from having been spotted being thugs in the first place. 

Any questions here?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cue the blood dancing...

Just lovely.  It seems that some cretin has taken it upon himself to shoot up a movie house in Aurora, Colorado, and he apparently enjoyed some success at it.  Many of the critical details are still up in the air, as is usual with these things, so it would be premature to conjecture on them.

It sure seems, though, that the most standard elements are in place once again:  demonstrably, law failed to prevent the shooter from acting, and nobody else in the theater had both the capacity and the will to resist at the moment of truth.  (The question of coerced helplessness--whether as a matter of law, or policy, or simply cultural conditioning--appears to be unsettled as of this writing, but regardless it seems rather obvious that none of the above successfully protected patrons from harm.)

Cue the blood-dancing.  Bloomie's doin' it, and the Brady Bunch, but hell, we've come to expect no less.  There's even incomprehensible bloviating from at least one on the "Right" that tries to tie this to "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs", but it seems self-evidently possible that the HuffPo searched deliberately to find such a moonbat.

None of it brings people back.  The core story is simple:  man with gun has his way with multiple people without the means and will to resist.  To spin it from there is to avoid dealing with the real issue.

Of course, some people are professionals at that.  So much so that, sadly, there is the question of the event's possible "Manchurianism".  Will we "discover" later, that this shooter was on psychotropics for much of his childhood, or is somehow attached to or influenced by someone on the public payroll?  Scoffers can scoff (and will) but it's not like all that hasn't happened before.

We don't know yet.  So:  Eyes.  Ears.

UPDATE:  It's hard to say it better than Kent McManigal does here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vanderboegh calls out the eugenicists.

I had to grin a little to see this post by national treasure Mike Vanderboegh.

For a number of years now I've been quipping here and there about the eerie similarities between modern statists--especially the self-declared "progressives", but really statists of all stripes, left and right, soft- and hard-core, whatever the label--and the eugenics movement of the early 20th century.

You know, that movement that so many trendy, well-to-do social planning types were sooo excited about, up until that little Austrian fellow with the silly mustache went and ruined it for the mainstream by...taking it to its perfectly logical conclusion.  It's not like Hitler was the only one who...actualized the practice--the core thinking is behind every genocide you can name, and arguably every state-sanctioned atrocity in general--but boy, did he document it well, and so it kinda went dormant for a while, with even the more ardent social engineering types leery of being associated with the name.

Well, it's back in the mainstream now.  The psychology of viewing variously-sized collectives commonly definable as the Not-Like-Us, as somehow inferior on a level so deep as to inhere in the individuals who make up the collective, is alive, well, and on the rise.  "The Left" does it with their religious-quality Crusades against gun owners, proponents of voluntary markets and individualists in general..."The Right" does it with its own Crusades against "Occupiers", "Greenies", "Hippies", "Anti-Patriots", and anyone else that it perceives as taking an "unfair" slice of "their" pie.  And so on.  The dismissive, ad-hominem tirades feature dehumanizing phrases and terms like "their kind", "people like that", "idiots/imbeciles/morons/stupid/retarded", ethnic or other collective epithets ("gun nuts", "wackjobs", "fudgepackers", "wingnuts", "pansy peaceniks", disease terms like "parasites", animal terms like "sheep", religious terms like "zealots", etc.), and even terms specifically hijacked for the purpose of more socially-acceptable exploitation of The Other:  "racist", "extremist", "immigrant" (talk about a word that has been exploited by nearly all "sides"!), etc.

Looking at the world in this polarized, fundamentally exclusive way has become so common--again--that I suspect that even those who pay careful attention to avoiding it can still find it lurking in their language (I'm certainly not free of guilt in this regard, and it bugs me).  And it makes a certain sense;  frustration is so high, because of all the not-listening-to-each-other, that it is all too easy to...deliberately exclude those Not-Like-Us.  But we need to remember that what ends with boxcars, begins innocuously, by viewing some group of others as inherently inferior.  We can do that even in the very act of calling out atrocity elsewhere.

This isn't a call to abandon principle--oh hell no.  But let's not become what we behold, either.  Mike's references, here, are nuts-on.  This embedded quote is from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives,” Holmes wrote. “It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices [ i.e., forced sterilization], often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

"better for all the world" my ass.  We'll end up there again, if we don't remember what happened before.  Let's make damn sure we're not a part of it.

Thank you, Mike, for the reminder.

Magnificent satire.

Okay, so it seems clear enough that there is a concerted effort to make our world so absurd that satire would logically just wither away from total irrelevance.  I find myself commenting about this all the time.

And yet, some pesky humans--bless their seditious, contrarian hearts--manage to adapt nonetheless.  The following solid gold nugget from Patrick at Popehat, guesting over at The Agitator: Screwtape Wept.  It begins:

My Dear Wormwood,

As discussed in my last letter, your patient’s decision to join the police department seemed a mixed development at best. It is true that Hell follows no law save the most ancient, “Eat or be eaten.” But as a general rule we want to discourage the creatures from obeying any laws, even of their own devising. Despite the best efforts of our most fiendish disputants, we in the Lowerarchy are unable, as yet, to remove from their laws all that reeks of the Enemy, such as justice, temperance, chastity, and respect for their fellow vermin. Still, we have made great strides in this age toward bending those who enforce the laws, such as your patient, to the commendable vices of cruelty, corruption, graft, influence-peddling, and the forsaking of oaths. So I did not discourage your patient’s occupation, as long as he could be steered onto a path which would eventually bring him to Our Father’s House.

Let's just say it does not end there.

Now I haven't actually read The Screwtape Letters, myself;  it is only through this homage that I even found out about CS Lewis' original.  (It's now on the list.)  But, like all good satire, this one is self-encapsulated on its own, and it's funny.

The artistic level of ridiculing humor targeting the state is observably on the rise, as is the general volume.  It's still well underground, but it's alive and growing.  Hell, maybe some day, when more people have had enough and are ready to hear it, it'll actually "go mainstream" or something crazy like that.

"Sleeping giant", or something.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Glenn Greenwald on the surveillance society. Please share everywhere.

Long live Glenn Greenwald.  His perspective, his background, is such a long way away from my own, but holy smokes, the man says important things well. 

Please, read this entire article (yes, it is long, and worth it), and share it as far and wide as humanly possible.  Lots of people need to see and confront what it contains, and for many of them, Greenwald will be a much better messenger than you or I--while delivering substantially the same message.

I'll indulge documenting two examples here.  Here's the first:

But I think that the more difficult value of privacy, the one that’s harder to think about, the one that’s more important than the one I just described. And that is that, it is in the private realm exclusively, where things like dissent and creativity, and challenges to orthodoxy, reside.

It’s only when you know that you can explore without external judgment, or when you can experiment without eyes being cast upon you, that the opportunity for creating new paths comes and there are all kinds of fascinating studies that  prove this to be the case. There are psychological studies where people have sat down at their dinner tables with their family members and friends talking for a long time in a very informal way. Then suddenly one of them pulls out a tape recorder and puts it on the table and says, “I’m going to tape-record this conversation just for my own interest. I promise I’m not going to tell anybody, I’m not going to show it to anybody, no one’s going to hear it, I’m just going to tape-record it because I like to go over all of the wisdom that you give me.”

And it’s an experiment to psychologically assess what the impact of that is. And invariably, what happens is, people who are now being recorded radically change their behavior. They speak in much more stilted sentences, they try and talk about much more high-minded topics, they are much stiffer in their expression of things because they now feel that they are being monitored. There was a pilot program in Los Angeles six or seven years ago that was in response to a couple of exaggerated news stories about rambunctious school children, elementary school children, on buses that were apparently being bullying and abusing other students.

The solution that they came up with was, they were going to install surveillance cameras in every single public school bus in Los Angeles county, which is the second or third largest county in the United States. The response, when it was ultimately disclosed, was well, this is going to be extraordinarily expensive! How can you have tens of thousands of working surveillance cameras with people monitoring them, recording them, every single day for every school bus in LA county? The answer that they gave was, Oh no, we’re not going to have working cameras in these buses, there may be a few buses that have working cameras, just so nobody knows which buses have those. We’re going to have faux cameras, because we know that if we put cameras up, even though they're not working, that will radically change the behavior of students.

In other words, we are training our young citizens to live in a culture where the expect they are always being watched. And we want them to be chilled, we want them to be deterred, we want them not to ever challenge orthodoxy or to explore limits where engaging creativity in any kind. This type of surveillance, by design, breeds conformism.  That’s its purpose. that’s what makes surveillance so pernicious.

How many people do you know who really need to confront that?  I know a boatload, myself, and I seriously doubt that I live among an exceptional population in that regard.

The next example I picked because a well-intentioned neophyte recently tried, amid a larger conversation about where the faith for Obamacare comes from, to hold up the 1960s civil rights laws as an example of how "working within the system" can get results.  I responded that "I would not want to try and defend the idea that we're any better off now, than then," and what I was thinking at the time was that it might be a pretty non-trivial challenge to try and convince American Muslims that ethnic or religious bigotry has been in any meaningful way "fixed" by any number of "Civil Rights Act"s.  Let's just say that Greenwald veritably nails it here:

I spend a lot of time with American Muslims and American Muslim communities doing the work that I do and where I go and speak, and one of the things that emboldens me and keeps me very energized and engaged about these issues is if you go and speak to communities of American Muslims is you find an incredibly pervasive climate of fear.

And the reason is that they know that they are always being watched. They know that they have FBI informants who are attempting to infiltrate their communities, they know that there are people next to them, their neighbors, fellow mosque-goers, who have been manipulated by the FBI to be informants. They know that they are being eavesdropped on when they speak on the telephone, they know that they are having their e-mails read when they speak or communicate to anybody. What they will say all the time is that it’s created this extreme suspicion within their own communities, within their own mosques to a point where they’re even afraid to talk to any new people about anything significant because they fear, quite rightly, that this is all being done as part of  a government effort to watch them.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s true in a particular case or it isn’t true. This climate of fear creates limits around the behavior in which they’re willing to engage in very damaging ways.

But I think what this Surveillance State really does more than making people consciously aware of the limits in those two examples I just described: people not wanting to go to Occupy movements and people in Muslim communities being very guarded is, it makes people believe that they’re free even though they’ve been subtly convinced that there are things that they shouldn’t do that they might want to do.

Buh-zing.  He just said it better than I ever could.

And those really are just two small highlights.  The whole "article" is essentially gold, and worth the read.  (Extra points if you get as big an eyebrow raise at the context of its delivery as I did.  Now that is interesting.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Need more humor like this.

Had to document this one.  Don't even recall exactly how I got the link for it, but that hardly matters.  To whoever "Stephen Smith" of A Beginner's Guide to Freedom is:  thank you;  I needed this today.

This isn't just one joke.  It's several multi-entendre zingers in one funny story.  And unless and until someone asks me to take it down to just a link, I'll post it in its entirety here, along with Smith's attributory note:
(This post is by no means my original material. This joke was forwarded to me by some friends in Alabama).
Whoever it was, it's right on.  While you're here giggling, give Beginner's Guide some click-love.

Here you go!
A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Montana when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, Will you give me a calf?”

Bud looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, Why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, surfs to a NASA page on the Internet where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an e-mail on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL database through an ODBC-connected Excel spreadsheet with e-mail on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

“That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,” says Bud. He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the Bud says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You're a U.S. Congressman,” says Bud.

“Wow! That's correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required,” answered the cowboy. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows...this is a herd of sheep. Now give me back my dog.”

Independence Day

Otra otra vez.  Wrote this* in 2009--could have written the same thing years before that--and oddly enough, not a thing has changed.

More constructive, this year, are Claire's thoughts.
People tell us that declaring (or going off and living) individual freedom in an unfree time is nihilistic. They call it giving up. They say we haven’t tried everything. They say it’s no solution to tyranny, but a surrender. They cry that we must join some Effort, get behind some Cause. And sometimes we do.

But these days, the number one job for We the Free is to create while the empire crumbles. Our job is to live in a way that builds a new reality in the ruins of the old.
As is so typical for Claire, this is just exactly what a weary mind sometimes needs reminding about.  (And bonus points for linking back to Nock, at just the time when I need it.)

Duly noted, and carrying on.

* As of this writing, the original Examiner article is still valid;  they keep telling me it's going to get pulled, and maybe someday it will be.  After which, it is still reproduced at the above Rifleman Savant link.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Where does the faith come from?

Saw on Facebook a link wherein (hold onto your hats, now, for this surprise) Krugman shills for Obamacare and sings the praises of The Roberts Decision*. 

I gritted my teeth and responded, and it seemed appropriate to document it here.  Note that names have been scrubbed out of respect for a very bright and otherwise intelligent person.

[W]ith apologies (this is your crib here): 

Here I go being a heretic again, but this is the question that most vexes me:  where does the faith come from?  Why, exactly, do people believe that this bill will actually help the little guy, instead of doing what every other bill in every other aspect of regulatory life has done since long before any of us were born:  empower the politically connected at the expense of the not-politically-connected rest of us?  Surely it's not simply because of the marketing and propaganda:  does the assurance of a transparent Establishment shill like Krugman (and the NYT itself) simply make it so?  None of this squares with history, which after all is nothing but an endless sequence of "reforms" that always, always, always seem to wind up worse than what inspired them in the first place.  (We've been "throwing the bums out" since 1796.)  Why do people keep lining up to do the same thing, and expecting different results?  It's really hard to avoid the battered-spouse analogy here.

I'm putting aside, entirely, my principal objection to this racket, in order to point out that even for those persuaded by pragmatism, this thing has "lose-lose" written all over it.  After more than a decade of the PATRIOT Act and what it has wrought (just for a recent and well-known example), I confess I just want to understand where the faith continues to come from.

Probably the best voice on this topic is the redoubtable Arthur Silber.  He's about as far away from my own background as one could get, shamelessly self-referential, and unabashedly impolite in his directness, but what he is not is ill-informed or wrong.  His work on this subject goes back well before the bill's passage, but his latest piece sums it all up quite nicely:


Seriously, for anyone who has the faith:  why?  What is it about this one that is going to be different than all that came before it?

UPDATE:  In response:

Kevin - Where does the faith come from? I think it comes from that what we currently have is not working very well. Healthcare costs are astronomical, insurance is complicated, people who need insurance (e.g. preexisting conditions) find it hard or impossible to get. We are not SURE that this is going to work, but giving it a try could possibly improve things. The only thing that stays the same in life is change - yes, some reforms have failed, others have improved things (civil rights reform in the 1960s). We don't know until we try. For some reason the analogy of me in my first year of teaching keeps coming back to me: for example, in a certain situation what I'm doing is not working. So I try something new. It could turn out to be a disaster, it could be brilliant, or it could be somewhere in between. But at least I'm adapting to and thinking critically about my situation. In my opinion, the same thing applies here.

And to document my response:
To truly "do something different" you have to look at this with a bigger lens.  There is nothing--nothing--about the system that we have now, the one that we all seem to agree is so unsustainably unworkable, that has not already been "fixed" many times over by legislation that was sold to us the same way, for the same reasons, and with the same result.  The system which so badly needs repair now, is the very one that the Beltway Establishment has already given us.  And so, as another product of the Beltway Establishment, ACA will perform just like all its smaller predecessors;  we'll "discover", breathlessly, in time, that its construction is (surprise!) riddled with perfectly legal ways for connected cronies to make out like bandits at the expense of the politically unconnected--and it will do so in such a way as to provide the fuel for the *next* moral outrage that we "allow" some people to take advantage of others like that.  Ten years down the road--or however long the cycle will take this time--the same gang will get everyone whipped up into another frenzy to "do something" because of how bad the system has by then become...and without a doubt they'll make sure that we are all well-informed as to what we can do to "reform" it:  appeal to the same people, using the same political processes, affected by the same pressures...to achieve the same result.  All the while, the little guy (that is, you and I) continues to get screwed.

Rinse, repeat.  (Look into it seriously, and you'll discover that all politics works this way, from imperial warmongering to traffic tickets.  Even sacred cows like "civil rights reform";  I would not want to try and defend the idea that we're any better off now, than then.)

If this way of thinking is rather contrary to everything you have been taught, you're hardly alone. I'm ashamed to admit how long it took me to recognize reality, but ultimately I just completely ran out of excuses and had to admit that in order to do something different, we'd actually have to do something different.  This revelation requires that you be willing to let go of what you "know", for long enough to actually view it with a critical eye--and this is what most people are unwilling to do.  The dual ironies in this are that 1) if what you "know" is truly better than an alternative, it would easily withstand the critical comparison, and 2) the only reason that political systems so vigorously persecute their heretics is that their moral imperative is easily destroyed by independent critical thought.  (Like any protection racket, it's a survival strategy.)  Consider the further irony that a common dismissal of political heretics is that they are somehow "paranoid"--for seriously considering an alternative.

It's not that we're not sure that this (ACA) is going to work.  History suggests that we are sure that this is not going to work--unless by "work" we mean "further aggrandize the power of the state at the expense of the individual", in which case it will work beautifully, because that is what political systems do. 

Most won't agree with me.  Many have sortied forth with playbook ad hominem or smug dismissal.  But nobody has shown me where this perspective has been proven wrong.

In the end, and despite the frustration, it's not my place or intention to "convince" anyone. I didn't respond to that either, when others were throwing arrows at what I "knew", and at any rate the reliability of an opinion achieved by browbeating is inherently suspect, isn't it?

I simply offer an alternative perspective.  Keep it in mind as you watch how this plays out.

* Thanks, Claire, for stating that one like it is.