Friday, February 27, 2015

Shocker, that.

I'm talking, of course, about this notion that Master would carefully consider the matter, and conclude sagely that its regulatory ministrations are absolutely essential in order to, you know, keep the Internet free.

I'm sure that things will, as usual, get better immediately.

All together now:


Friday, February 20, 2015

In case I needed a reminder that "private skool" is still "statist skool"...

Seen on the banner sign for Cook Inlet Academy private school today:

Every time you receive a benefit
a responsibility is incurred

Look, sure, I understand what they're getting at with this, and they may mean perfectly well by it all, but this is not the same message as TANSTAAFL, and I think the distinction is important.  It is both the idea that somehow the receipt of a benefit automatically implies a debt, and (more importantly) the idea that the benefit somehow causes the "responsibility", that got my teeth grinding:  neither of these are the ideas of free people;  they are, conversely, essential thinking for proper State minions.

If a benefit automatically implies a debt, then there is absolutely no point in philanthropy any more.  Now, I've often wondered how much more philanthropy there might be, if so much of it weren't "required" by law and the armed mob that makes it, but the truth is that there is still much that people can do for one another that falls outside "the law", and it is one of humanity's more compelling plusses that a lot of day-to-day philanthropy is yet done, despite the best efforts of the polypragmatoi to forcibly extract all the remaining fun there is in doing it.  And so the idea of actually conditioning it out of ourselves, at the very level of its definition, is simply horrifying.  Take away the beauty and magnificence that humans are capable of, and you'll be left only with the base, the brutal, the beastly.  (And I should be kinder to the beasts, there.)

And just as a free person understands that there is a difference--a massive difference--between "life is liberty" and "liberty is life", so (s)he would understand that there is a difference between the idea that one takes on a responsibility in order to gain a benefit, and the idea that simply receiving a benefit somehow produces a responsibility.  The former is always voluntary, but the latter quite often is not--and it certainly seems to be a favored authoritarian trick to manufacture dependencies, debts and "responsibilities" simply by producing arbitrary "benefits" that Authoritah may then value and assess to its own advantage*.  Is this not the basic thinking behind "luv it or leave it", "healthcare is a right", "my country, right or wrong", "only working within the system can produce positive change", "died defending your freedom", "unions protect the little guy", "but who will build the roads", "if you don't vote you have no right to complain", "if you see something, say something", etc... (Jeez, one could pretty much put up the entire statist hymnal, with similar results.)

Anyway, so presumably this message is supposed to be "food for thought" for the kids and families that go to this school.  This private school.  This outfit which is ostensibly outside the limitations and dogma of the public school system.  And yet I'm not sure I could come up with a more insidiously authoritarian idea than the one on that sign.  Arguably there are others which could match it, but I'm not sure anything could best it. 

Not a cheery thought.  A bummer within an otherwise lovely day.

* Or by simply defining certain things as benefits, and then demanding "responsibility" for them.  Among other examples, this pretty much fully explains Harrison Bergeron's predicament, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Incisive, nuanced political commentary."

I'd meant to do this a while ago, but apparently forgot.  Here, Tam takes apart yet another authoritarian piddlewit in her trademark style, which is always worth a RTWT, but really it was the simple triptych of political cartoons that she used to bolster her point, that I felt the need to note here--because it is a nearly universal and perfect representation of what might be called portrayal bigotry.




Incisive, nuanced political commentary.

We all know how that works, of course, but leave it to Tam to find the right images and punchline.

Now, with that done, I can get back to my issue of Penis Envy Today, and contemplate new ways to cook and eat my young.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Coupla book thoughts.

Maybe it's just the being unemployed, but I seem to have been doing a bit more reading than usual lately, and had a couple of book thoughts that seemed appropriate to dump here.

So, lately I've read:

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  I was expecting to enjoy/appreciate these, and I did.  It's not (and doesn't pretend to be) high literature, but on the other hand it's quite a bit more than "just" young adult fare, too.  Lots of good freedomista observations, with enough leftovers for bickering over the less important details.  There's a fair share of suspension of disbelief (as just one example, during the first Hunger Games of the series, Katniss is treed by enemies, for several hours and then overnight...but somehow, nobody thinks simply to light the tree on fire to flush her out) but hey, the story goes on, and usually it does a pretty good job at keeping your attention.  The first book stands well enough on its own as an anti-state statement, but it is impressive to see all that happens in the latter half of Mockingjay, to cement the idea that revolution, by itself, is not a sustainable solution to the real problem.  That was rather nicely done. 

And I also much appreciated the author's attention to a few detail matters such as food, medicine and sustainable trade;  this appeared to be more than just an author sticking in a few references--Collins really seemed to weave it integrally into the story, and it came across well. 

I look forward to seeing the films, which I understand have been pretty well done.

No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy.  This is my first McCarthy book, oddly enough given his wide acclaim and popularity.  All in all, I'm mostly left wondering what the fawningly superlative hubbub is about.  I should perhaps withhold judgment about the textual style that omits all quotation marks in dialogue, omits apostrophes in common contractions (but not possessives), and uses improper locutions (e.g., "could of" for "could have", etc.) even in third-omniscient narration, as a deliberate conceit;  at least until I've read a second of his works to compare it to.  (Perhaps.  That style remained actively annoying throughout the book.)  I can see what he was going for with the arrangement of Bell's ongoing reminisce set against the main action, but I found it more dissipating than enriching.  I can appreciate what was probably a deliberate decision to let the action and dialogue, only, drive characterization for the first good bit of the story, and only add observation and development in down the line, but with me it seems to have backfired at least a bit:  the most interesting character interaction of the entire novel was the all-too-short interaction between Chigurh and Wells.  And ultimately, I'm not sure I was as moved by the book's core observations as many others seemed to expect me to be.  Maybe this is because I've contemplated several of those observations for a number of years now on my own, and have found a peace with them already--or maybe it's just me being ademographic again. 

At any rate, it was far from uninteresting, but ultimately I think I was expecting more than I got. As with Hunger Games, now I can see the film, which I understand was well-done. 

The Portrait by Iain Pears.  Now this is actually my favorite author.  Or at least, the author of two of the finest books I have ever read.  The Portrait is probably my least favorite of his standalone novels, but that still allows it to be an outstanding piece of work.  (It is probably not even fair to compare it to the magnificent tour-de-perspective of An Instance of the Fingerpost, or the you-impossibly-magnificent-bastard punchline of Stone's Fall, but it also may not be possible to resist.)  His authorial style here is on full display, and the actual writing challenge of The Portrait must have been intense, given the first-person voice, addressing the you in not-quite-letter style, and given both the topic and expected outcome.  And the extended exploration of the roles of artist and critic reminded me of an old description of Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, as "examining what it means to be a tourist versus a traveler".  A worthwhile read.

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde.  This is the third book in Fforde's "Chronicles of Kazam" series, which is playfully witty and amusing in a parallel (not really "similar") way as his "Nursery Crime" books (which themselves feature Detective Jack Spratt and Sgt. Mary Mary, investigating such cases as the unfortunate demise of one Reginald H. Dumpty, and the possible existence of a fourth bear...  You get the idea.  Fforde does a nice job of honorably covering territory that could so easily be done very badly.).  The Kazam series is narrated by teenage indentured servant Jennifer Strange, who has improbably found herself the manager of Kazam Mystical Arts, an agency that employs sorcerers, seers and other practitioners of magic.  It's a fun series with lots of ideas, amusing dialogue, and a fair share of "serious" observations underneath all the jokes.  (That latter seems to be something of a style point for Fforde.  The first novel in his "Shades of Grey" series, called The Road To High Saffron, is actually an unexpectedly powerful piece of work--it blew me away how complex and layered all the metaphors were, even when buried under jokes both good and really, really bad.  It is an absolutely excellent "freedom book" without making any attempt to be or call itself that.)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nicely done.

From the sound of it, at any rate.  The Washington event seems to have gone well, with the point made even if others now wish like hell to ignore it.  I liked particularly the improvisation of heading over to the governor's mansion in response to the tyrants' play of doing what they supposedly never do:  lock the doors to the legislative galleries.

I'm under no delusion that this will either sate the appetites of the disarmament crowd, nor that it will result in any meaningful improvement in the political process.  However, the group did what they set out to do, and people saw them do it.  And they seemed to do it with class and style, as well.

With any luck, at least a few people will not be able to unsee what they did, either. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Oh, swell. Movie baddie discovers Steyr Scout.

Seen first on Facebook.  It appears that Michael Douglas' latest portrayal of (wait for it, now) a corporate magnate gone bad (You really were shocked, weren't you?  Admit it.) will feature what appears to be a pimped out Steyr (Mannlicher) Scout.

I'm sure someone will make cooing noises over the Teutonic consistency between the Austrian rifle and the braggadocious Benz seen in the trailer, and perhaps this was even the deliberate design of someone hired to produce "authenticity" in the final product.  (They have people for that, you know.)

Oh, joy.   So now I get to bookmark here the leading edge of the coming effort to demonize the boltgun, by starting with the boltgun whose cosmetics lay in between Evil Black Rifles and traditional western Fuddguns.  Seriously, is there any doubt that this image will get used for full value down the line?

Click to embiggen the psychotic hatred.

Geek musings collected en bloc here:
Predictably, one also has to laugh at even the few gun-work bits highlighted in the trailer, which feature what looks to be a long-distance snapshot, out-of-the-shoulder boltwork, an illogical bipod deployment right in front of at least three superior post rests...  (Presumably they had to invent at least one suitably photogenic scene for the "leggy things that go down".)  I'm sure the full movie will be even more full of the gaag.

And the Scout itself, apparently, wasn't weird-looking enough out of the box;  it had to be modified to haz more evil.  This one seems to have a muzzlebrake (highlighted by the shiny aftermarket barrel--look here for the evil, folks!), more shinies to bring out the unconventionally-mounted telescope...  Somehow, I cannot imagine that the full movie will fail to mention also the (gasp) detachable magazine (and spare, mounted in the buttstock), nor the quality of the trigger, nor the inherent accuracy (...of the barrel that they replaced with the shiny one), nor the uncommonly light weight (...that they nullified with the heavy-contour, unfluted shiny barrel).

They fully missed, however, in swapping out the Ching Sling for what looks like a traditional two-point carry strap.  (Presumably they simply didn't understand what the weird-looking short strap was for.)  If you want to show people who have never seen it something that is ninja-like impressive, it would be hard to beat film of a practiced hand dropping into sitting while simultaneously locking himself to his rifle, and hitting twice at 200-300 yards.  It's amazing to watch.  (I know, of course, that most people haven't ever actually tried to hit things that far away, and so can't be as impressed as those who have, but the out-of-box Scout with the Ching Sling makes it as easy as you can make it with a rifle, and if my goal was to scare people with how efficient a boltgun can be, that would be the very first thing I'd show.

We'll see, of course, exactly how the polypragmatoi play it this time, but we've been here so many times before...the one thing that seems death-and-taxes certain is that they will do something with it.

Fudds take note.  Baddie's got a boltgun!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

It's hard to express... much I want to see Mike Vanderboegh return, healthy and free, and having made his point.

Sure, I've got my own points of disagreement with MBV, but I can't help but admire many of the things he does and the reasons he does them.  His "in your face" crusade of the last several years is simply inspiring, even when it seems to be pissing up a rope or involving (what seem to me) pointlessly risky actions.

I've said before that I'm torn on the idea of appealing to Leviathan's institutions, in the hope that Leviathan might restrain the excesses of Leviathan.  And a part of me sees this February 7th event as just that.  But it's not just that, either, and it's somewhere in the "not just that" that Mike works his unique form of magic.  He seems to have figured out how to push people's limits right up to the point of crossing over into actual stupidity, without ever going over the line on anything important. He also seems very effective at reaching invested minarchists on something crucially important, that I would think makes the point against minarchism in and of itself.  And my word, but he's good at this.  He's the firebrand that at once holds back the truly excessive and stupid, and yet scares the polypragmatoi in a way they cannot ignore or marginalize.  Both ways!*  And I cannot help but perceive that this is effectively galvanizing exactly the demographic that it needs to--bit by bit, day by day, headline by headline, mind by mind.  I'm not sure the value of this is really calculable. 

Which, of course, makes me anxious for his safe return.  (Equally-impressive-in-his-own-role David Codrea probably said it best.)  I don't think I doubt the intent of the Washington folks that Mike is going to assist;  from what (little) I have seen they seem to be more principled than reckless, and December's "I Will Not Comply" rally seemed to come across as at least a qualified success.

Still.  These are not nice people that are getting poked with a stick on Saturday, and even worse, they are people that are widely legitimized to have power over people's lives.  (That Leviathan problem again.)  So I truly don't know what I think will happen.

But I know what I want to happen.  I want Mike around for as long as possible.  It's not for me--what he did for me, he did long ago--but because I see his continuing effect on new people, and I think we need as much of that as we can get.

*  And how bitter an irony is this?  In my book, with my definitions, this makes Mike the ne plus ultra of actual compromise, of actual pragmatism;  to the extent that there is any honor left available in either of these words, Mike has been living it.  (I'd like to think that he might forgive me by understanding how much of a compliment I actually mean that as.)