Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Monday, December 29, 2003


    4 more years

    I saw an article the other day (which I can't find anymore, or I'd link to it) stating that the 2004 economy looks to go gangbusters, so it looks like GWB will be getting his second term. I think the man is OK as a person, but he's a statist like all of his potential Democratic adversaries. Yuck.

    Posted by Tom, 12/29/2003 10:44:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, December 27, 2003


    Even at its best, government is the worst

    Perhaps it's just personal bias talking, but I have come to believe that one of the truly useful things that government can do is handle weather monitoring, forecasting, and so forth. But even the National Weather Service falls prey to bureacratic apathy, mismanagement of taxpayer funds, and blatant malfeasance.

    "I'm from the government. I'm here to help."

    Thanks, but I'll be counting my change when we're done.

    Posted by Tom, 12/27/2003 10:21:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 24, 2003


    Just Say No to Truth in Advertising

    It seems some conservative students decided to call it like they see it, and hold a bake sale with prices based on the race of the customer. White people got charged the most, minorities got charged on a sliding scale. For some reason, this was not as popular as affirmative action, which the bake sale was designed to mirror in policy and intent. I take it the supporters of affirmative action don't want it to be accurately described for or easily understood by the unwashed masses. It's easier to pretend that everyone is being treated "equal", while giving a wink to Orwell's definition of the word.

    Posted by Tom, 12/24/2003 1:25:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, December 19, 2003


    Why Government Fails and the Market Succeeds

    Lew Rockwell has a great piece at the Mises Institute about the nature of government vs the nature of the market. He makes a plethora of excellent points.

    On the limitations of government:

    It comes down to this: statesmen and public officials, no matter how powerful they may be, cannot finally control social outcomes.

    If I might offer a summary of a point emphasized in all of Mises's works: the structure of society and world affairs generally is shaped by human actions, stemming from imaginative human minds working out individual subjective valuations, and their interactions with the material world, which is governed by laws that are beyond human control.


    Human society is governed by economic law. Government attempts to subvert, suppress, and ignore this law, but only succeeds in delaying the inevitable while making conditions worse in the meantime.

    On socialism:

    Socialism was really nothing other than an intellectual game. People from the ancient world to the present conjured up some vision of how they would like the world to work and then advocated a series of measures of how to achieve it. Mises and his generation explained that their vision was fundamentally at odds with reality. In the real world, capital must have price rooted in exchange of private property in order for it to be employed in its highest-valued capacity. It solves nothing to say that everyone should own capital collectively. This was the equivalent of pointing out that the Emperor was wearing no clothes.

    It is impossible to avoid the basic economic law pointed out by Rand: You cannot eat your cake and have it too. You cannot spend your capital and maintain it at the same time. You cannot give your capital to others and still have it. You cannot take capital from others by force and simultaneously enrich them by the act of taking.

    On Wal-Mart:

    Consider the success of Wal-Mart. If government had set out to create a volume discounter that made a world of material goods and groceries available to the multitude in all countries, it might have tried for a thousand years and not created anything resembling this company. Even the military has relented and now routinely points its employees not to its on-base stores but to Wal-Mart, Office Depot, and others for the best prices.

    There's more where that came from, but you get the idea. Go read it.

    Posted by Tom, 12/19/2003 6:38:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 18, 2003


    Puh-leeze

    RealNetworks is suing Microsoft, alleging they can't compete because Microsoft is supposedly "monopolistic" or some such crap.

    RealNetworks Inc. said Microsoft illegally tied its Windows Media Player software with copies of the ubiquitous Windows operating system, whether Windows users want Microsoft's player or not.

    That, the lawsuit said, makes it harder for RealNetworks's own Real One software to compete, "resulting in substantial lost revenue and business for RealNetworks."


    No, the reason that RealNetworks is having problems competing is because their software sucks. Windows Media Player and Apple's Quicktime are far superior products offering better network performance, cleaner video, and better sound. RealNetworks is just trying to cover for the fact that they desperately need to fire all of their engineers and go back to the drawing board. Try using some of those legal fees to fix your crappy software, you twits!

    Quicktime doesn't seem to be having any trouble getting Windows interfaces, and I note that RN isn't suing Apple for bundling QT with OS X. Whiners.

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2003 8:24:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Libertarian = Anarchy = Chaos?

    Brad Edmonds argues against the "chaos theory" of government. This is the idea that limiting, reducing, or aboloshing national government would instantaneously transform us all into club-wielding cave-dwellers continuously engaged in mindless tribal warfare. Among his ideas is a fundamental point about the nature of the free market:

    A common protest is that a completely free market requires that "people are basically good." This is not correct; to the contrary, what makes a market work is that people are self-interested.

    He builds on this idea with what I like to call the "Consumer Reports" argument. When I wanted to buy a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and a home theater system, I found a business that conducts independent reviews of these products. I paid them a nominal fee for access to their research, and found the best price/performance match for my budget and lifestyle. As a result, I am extremely happy with my purchases. Getting rid of crap like the CPSC and the FDA would only increase the number of such businesses on the market, which necessarily involves growing the economy, and such businesses would have a real incentive (unlike government agencies) to provide test results and product reviews in a timely fashion. An added bonus would be more money in our pockets as our taxes are no longer needed to support these bloated bureaucracies.

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2003 9:43:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    A Run-in With the Feds

    Hot Conservative Gun Chick writes about an airport experience that was less than satisfying. This is not the country I signed up for.

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2003 9:21:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Melvin Spaulding Free!

    Melvin Spaulding will not face charges. Read all about it here and here.

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2003 9:05:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Go Burt Go!

    Burt Rutan is my hero. He's just taken another significant step towards privately funded spaceflight, as SpaceShipOne does its first supersonic test. I'm so excited I can barely sit still.

    Bite that, NASA!

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2003 8:39:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 17, 2003


    Wow

    Orson Scott Card lays the smackdown on the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Thanks to reader Thomas for sending it along.

    Am I saying that critics of the war aren't patriotic?

    Not at all--I'm a critic of some aspects of the war. What I'm saying is that those who try to paint the bleakest, most anti-American, and most anti-Bush picture of the war, whose purpose is not criticism but deception in order to gain temporary political advantage, those people are indeed not patriotic. They have placed their own or their party's political gain ahead of the national struggle to destroy the power base of the terrorists who attacked Americans abroad and on American soil.

    Patriots place their loyalty to their country in time of war ahead of their personal and party ambitions. And they can wrap themselves in the flag and say they "support our troops" all they like--but it doesn't change the fact that their program is to promote our defeat at the hands of our enemies for their temporary political advantage.


    It's about time someone made this distinction, and Mr. Card does it very well. The rest of the article contains similarly lucid points, and it's well worth your time to read.

    I disagree with the war in much the same way that Mr. Card does. And I agree that once we decide to get involved in a war, we should fight it to the bitter end and make sure all the bad guys are dead. Unfortunately, I can't decide which frightens me more -- the prospect of another 4 years of domestic tyranny under the Republicans, or the prospect of another 4 years of domestic tyranny under the Democrats.

    What a mess.

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2003 9:14:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Muddy Waters

    Came across the Republican Liberty Caucus via Full Frontal Liberty. I don't know if I'm interested or nauseated. The thought of voting Republican and getting an extension of our current mess just turns my stomach. I guess this group will need to be investigated a bit. I might talk to my state's coordinator, but I just have this nervous feeling that I'm about to pet a rattlesnake.

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2003 8:51:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, December 16, 2003


    Spam Paranoia

    I got some private feedback about disabling the comments section, the forum, and the "permalink". Paranoia abounds. So here it is, the straight poop:

    The forums are run on my server, out of my database. Nobody has access to that database but me, and I certainly don't care to send anyone a bunch of spam. So untwist your knickers about putting in a stupid email address.

    The comments were not being used, and I really want to have more of a dialog with people, a la the great "grassroots.org" politics board of a couple of years ago. Therefore a discussion board is far more appropriate to my purposes.

    A "permalink", which you'll see at the bottom of every post, gives you a way to link to a specific post when you want to send it to someone, bookmark it, or whatever. Using http://centerdigit.blogspot.com will go to the most recent post, not to the one you want to look at. It's a convenience I was kind enough to set up for my readers. It is not a space alien waiting to steal all the credit card information from your computer and send it to Malaysia.

    As a further service to my readers, I am trying to find a good online source of tin foil hats. So far I haven't come up with any, but if someone out there could forward me a link, I'm sure there are some who are anxious to get their hands on one.



    Posted by Tom, 12/16/2003 10:08:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Comments Disabled

    They weren't being used very much anyway, and in the interest of developing a multi-party dialog I'd rather have users go to the forums to comment on my crap. So join the fun!

    Posted by Tom, 12/16/2003 9:41:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 15, 2003


    Dialog Engaged

    CenterDigit Forums are up! Use 'em and abuse 'em!

    Posted by Tom, 12/15/2003 1:00:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Concealed Carry News

    Things are happening in Ohio, New Mexico, and Missouri as those state struggle to reclaim some small bit of freedom in the form of an individual's right to self-defense. Unfortunately, current events revolve around a bunch of nitwit hand-wringers who can't stop worrying about the poor criminals who will be put out of work as a result. Yes, that's a fairly cynical take on their concerns, but I'm not feeling very charitable right now. I'm just glad to be living in a gun-friendly state (Oklahoma) where the noise from people like this is extremely muted.

    Posted by Tom, 12/15/2003 10:57:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Just Say No to Tyranny

    I applaud this man for finally taking a stand. I certainly wish I had been more informed when I got my SSN, and I have no intention of letting anyone brand my children with one, unless they give their fully informed consent (this of course implying that they would be old enough to understand).

    Social Security must eventually die. Its collapse is inevitable. The question is, will we be a nation of snivelling dependents who can't deal with the loss, or will we have a new generation of people who have learned to live without the nanny state? I hope and pray for the latter.

    Posted by Tom, 12/15/2003 10:47:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, December 14, 2003


    Animal Rights Integrity

    After much screwing around with the VCR, I finally managed to capture Surviving Nugent on VH1. As would be expected, there's quite a bit of Ted Nugent and his attitude, which some like and some don't. Putting that aside however, we come to the most interesting point made by the show.

    One of the contestants was a girl named Sarah. She's apparently someone in a leadership position of the animal rights crowd (Campaigns Coordinator, Last Chance for Animals). As can be expected, she did a fair amount of fussing over chicken harassment, skinning a boar, and dinner -- where she was served a vegan meal with all hospitality, but apparently couldn't handle the fact that everyone else was chowing down on the aforementioned boar. To her credit, she kept coming back for more, in spite of an obvious desire to run screaming from the Nugent Ranch. She had the guts to make several stands against Ted, which seemed to impress him. If I had to guess at what single criteria Ted was using to cut people, it would have to be personal integrity and consistency.

    And this is where Sarah eventually fails. One of the challenges that came up was tailor-made for Sarah. The contestants were told that a bunch of geese had gotten into the swimming pool and that they had 5 minutes to get them out before Ted arrived with his shotgun and bagged a few. The contestants run to the pool and 2 of the guys jump in to grab the geese and get them out. Sarah stood idly by and watched. At the very end, she managed to gingerly pick one of the geese up and carry it away, but at no time did she get into the pool or really try to get the job done.

    I don't think it was the problem of getting wet, since she had previously jumped into the swamp to "rescue" a duck decoy, and the swamp was far nastier than the pool. However, when "Big Jim" (Ted's ranchhand) told the contestants to check each other for leeches and ticks, Sarah had a particularly horrified look on her face.

    It seemed like Sarah was mostly around to preach, but when it came down to getting physically near the animals she was supposedly so concerned with, she lost her conviction. She was OK with trying to bully people around, but not OK getting up close and personal with critters. She didn't even try to get near the chickens that were caged. If she is the kind of person who exemplifies what the animal rights movement considers leadership material, this really makes me wonder if there's a spine to be had in the lot of them.

    Posted by Tom, 12/14/2003 9:45:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, December 12, 2003


    Put Up or Shut Up

    If the greenies want a fuel-cell future, they're going to have to bend on something -- most likely nuclear power. Envirowackies encouraged our dependence on fossil fuels -- practically mandated it -- when they started whining about nuke plants. And now, to get the power they want into use by the masses, they need to let the nuclear bogeyman out of his cage. The irony pleases me ever so much.

    Posted by Tom, 12/12/2003 3:17:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 11, 2003


    Why Vote Libertarian?

    You know the argument, because you've either heard it or made it. Voting Libertarian is throwing away your vote. Libertarians are just extreme Republicans, so you would be better off if you voted Republican. They are, after all, the party of smaller government.

    That is 100% pure bunk, and once again we have an issue (Medicare) and a writer (James Ostrowski) who cares enough to point it out. Republicans are not the party of small government.

    The Republicans have been expanding the size, scope and power of government ever since they first got their mitts on power in 1861. Their Civil War set the blueprint for modern America[.]

    Now, before you Democrats get all excited, neither are you. One of the reasons the Republicans expand government is because you keep telling people how great it will be when it's bigger. The one thing that Democrats and Republicans agree on with regards to government is that there should be more of it.

    The party of small government is the Libertarian Party or something like it. I don't see any freedom-loving faces in the potential candidates for next year's presidential election, at least not in the two major parties. Am I throwing away my vote if I vote Libertarian? Well, if I vote Republican or Democrat, I don't get what I want, which is smaller government. How is that not throwing my vote away?

    George Bush has one chance to save my vote: He can take a principled stand against renewing the Assault Weapons Sham, and block its passage. He's not going to, but if he did, I'd vote for him.

    Posted by Tom, 12/11/2003 1:52:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Libertarianism for Dummies

    Here's a good one from LibertyForAll.

    Politically, the major choice we're offered is whether we want a bigger, more expensive, more intrusive, more coercive Democratic government or a bigger, more expensive, more intrusive, more coercive Republican government.

    Harry Browne explains the results of these choices in his article, "Your Innocence Is No Protection".

    For example, suppose you're a 75-year-old minister living in Boston. You've worked all your life to console those who are poor in money or spirit.

    One afternoon 13 men with sledgehammers break down the door and charge into your apartment. They're wearing helmets, battle fatigues, and boots — and they're armed with shotguns and pistols.

    They force you to the floor, pin your legs and arms, and handcuff you. They scare you so badly you suffer a heart attack — and within 45 minutes you're dead.

    Who were these criminals?

    They weren't "criminals." They were members of a SWAT team searching for drugs and guns. There wasn't anything illegal in your apartment, as you could have told them if they had stopped long enough to ask you.

    But they didn't stop and they didn't ask. They didn't have to. They knew you were a bad guy, and they weren't going to allow you to escape or to flush your drug inventory down the toilet.

    Six weeks after you die, it is revealed that the SWAT team raided the wrong apartment. You have been completely exonerated. But, unfortunately, the government can't bring you back to life.

    Not one of the SWAT team members — or the prosecutor who okayed the raid — was prosecuted or suffered any career damage for causing the death. Compare that with a pot smoker who is hurting no one but might have to spend several years in prison if he gets caught.

    This isn't fiction. It is the story of the Reverend Acelynne Williams, and how he died on March 26, 1994.


    Think about that the next time someone says "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

    Posted by Tom, 12/11/2003 11:04:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 10, 2003


    Why I Love America

    Sunday I was complaining to a friend about remote controls, and I mentally designed all of the features that a good universal remote should have:

    1. LCD screen, so if the hard buttons don’t cover it, you can select functions electronically.

    2. Web programming. I don’t want to sit there and punch a bunch of stupid 3 or 4 digit codes into my remote. The company should have a website that lists everything by model number, where you can say “I have this Sony TV, that Magnavox DVD, blah blah blah”, and the remote should hook up to your computer via a USB cable and slurp all that info into it.

    3. One-button commands. I want to press “Watch a DVD”, and have the remote turn on the TV, turn on the DVD/VCR, set the TV to channel 3, set the DVD/VCR to DVD output, turn on the home theater system, turn off the satellite receiver, and push “Play” on the DVD player. The Volume buttons should be automatically mapped to the home theater, and the play/rewind/fast forward thingies to the DVD player. Press “Watch Satellite”, and it should turn off the DVD/VCR, turn on the satellite, and so forth.


    Well here’s why I love America. I dreamed up a product, went out on the web, and it already exists. It's called the Harmony Remote. It’s not cheap, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Here’s a rather in-depth review with some funny pictures.

    Posted by Tom, 12/10/2003 12:42:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, December 9, 2003


    Jumpin' Jehosephat!

    They're making a sequel to Starship Troopers!?!?!?!

    That whirring sound you hear is Heinlein spinning (even faster) in his grave.

    Posted by Tom, 12/9/2003 4:15:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Oops

    I just realized I forgot a link to an article in one of my earlier posts. Mea culpa.

    Posted by Tom, 12/9/2003 3:22:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Is Wal-Mart the Antichrist?

    I recently got this link in my email. It's a diatribe against Wal-Mart. Here's my response:

    Globalization is a growth stage for the world economy. There will necessarily be some changes to the way things are produced, and to the groups of people producing them. America is no longer in a position to offer low-skill jobs at “living wages”. We are an economy that demands skills. Unskilled labor just isn’t sustainable in our economy unless it is done by people who can get by on lower wages – students, people drawing retirement income, and immigrants. Mopping floors just isn’t a task that we should really have to pay a lot of money to have someone do. And if it weren’t for the availability of cheap labor, Wal-Mart would probably come up with a robot that mops the floor instead.

    A lot of what gets glossed over in discussions of wage levels is that people have agreed to work for those wages, for whatever reason. Want to see Wal-Mart fall down? Convince each and every one of its cashiers, stockboys, floor moppers, and so forth that they can get a different job at a higher wage. If nobody is willing to work at Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart doesn’t have a business. But the fact is that people are willing to work there, and the majority of the employees that I’ve talked to are fiercely loyal to the company. This is America. Nobody is holding a gun to their heads, saying they have to work at Wal-Mart. So why do they do it? Why do they like it?

    “The reason households shopped at Wal-Mart, he said, is that their collapsed incomes make them unable to purchase goods at higher prices."

    This is just bunk. People buy things at Wal-Mart because they’re cheaper at Wal-Mart. I’ve never heard anyone say they like grocery shopping, or that their grocery tab was too low. Instead, everyone complains about how much they have to spend for groceries. So if I can get the same jar of pickles at Wal-Mart for a dollar less than I can get it at Albertson’s, all else being held equal, I’ll buy it at Wal-Mart. The problem is, all else isn’t equal. I shop at Albertson’s because Wal-Mart is always way too crowded and the cash registers are too slow. But I do buy my hunting gear at Wal-Mart, because for my purposes camo is camo and a camo jacket at Wal-Mart is half the price (or less) than you’ll find it at our new Bass Pro Shop. Sure, the quality of the material is crap, and it’s not a Scent-Lok garment that keeps wildlife from sniffing you out, but I don’t really care because I don’t hunt deer any more, and ducks are pretty stupid.

    The article also conveniently leaves out the fact that Wal-Mart has its competitors as well. The home theater system I recently purchased goes for around $298 at Wal-Mart. I found it at Amazon.com for $264, with free shipping (note: prices may have changed since this post). It costs Wal-Mart some amount of money to keep that system on display. I shopped for the system at Wal-Mart. I looked it over, played with the knobs and dials and listened to the sound, decided I liked it, decided I wanted to buy it, then went somewhere else to get it. Wal-Mart paid to sell me that system, but got none of the benefit from their investment because I found the same thing cheaper elsewhere. Do I feel bad about this? Heck no! I just practiced smart shopping. Wal-Mart is successful because most of the time the deal runs the other way, but the gamble they take is that it won’t.

    When quality is a factor, you generally won’t find people buying at Wal-Mart. Right now, I have a workbench covered with Wal-Mart tools, all of which are cheap and crappy. You can’t sell a screwdriver for $1.37 and have it made out of good steel. So it bends and chips and becomes useless. I’m looking at replacing my tools, but there is no way on earth I’m going to Wal-Mart to do it. I’m going to buy Craftsman hand tools, and as I need power tools they’ll be Bosch or some other good name, because I’m sick of stuff breaking. The same goes for clothing. Our family has a love affair with LL Bean. I wear the shirt I got last year for Christmas almost every day, like a jacket. It still looks as good as the day I got it. But it’s a $40 shirt. You won’t find it at Wal-Mart. Instead you’ll find shirts that will last a couple of months before developing holes or tears or ripped seams or whatever. I know, because my dresser drawers are full of them.

    As for sweatshop labor, if a factory in China pays its workers $32 a month to build fans for a living, and they’re actually doing it, it means that those workers can’t find another job making more. If the factory across the street was hiring people at $40 a month, the workers would be flocking to it. If you raise the cost of labor, the number of people who can be employed will fall unless the cost of the product also rises. Pay them $64 a month, and the cost of the product has to go up proportionate to the labor cost, or you’ve just eliminated half the jobs.

    Reason magazine just had an excellent article on the subject of globalization, in an interview with Johan Norberg.

    Sweatshops are a natural stage of development. We had sweatshops in Sweden in the late 19th century. We complained about Japanese sweatshops 40 years ago. You had them here. In fact, you still do in some places. One mistake that Western critics of globalization make is that they compare their current working standards to those in the developing world: "Look, I’m sitting in a nice, air-conditioned office. Why should people in Vietnam really have to work in those terrible factories?" But you’ve got to compare things with the alternatives that people actually have in their own countries. The reason why their workplace standards and wages are generally lower is the lack of productivity, the lack of infrastructure, the lack of machinery, and so on. If workers were paid U.S. wages in Vietnam, employers wouldn’t be able to hire them. The alternative for most workers would be to go back to agriculture, where they could work longer hours and get irregular and much lower wages.

    Sweatshops are the way poor countries tap into their competitive advantage, which is cheap labor. Multinational corporations bring in more modern technology, including things like training and management systems, that actually increase productivity. When workers are more productive, they tend to earn more. That’s why in a typical developing nation, if you’re able to work for an American multinational, you make eight times the average wage. That’s why people are lining up to get these jobs. When I was in Vietnam, I interviewed workers about their dreams and aspirations. The most common wish was that Nike, one of the major targets of the anti-globalization movement, would expand so that a worker’s relatives could get a job with the company.

    When unions, when protectionists, when uncompetitive corporations in the U.S. say that we shouldn’t buy from countries like Vietnam because of its labor standards, they’ve got it all wrong. They’re saying: "Look, you are too poor to trade with us. And that means that we won’t trade with you. We won’t buy your goods until you’re as rich as we are." That’s totally backwards. These countries won’t get rich without being able to export goods.


    Anyway, that’s my take on the whole thing. Your mileage may vary.

    Posted by Tom, 12/9/2003 10:06:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 8, 2003


    The Real Battle Lines

    Echoing one of my long-held beliefs, Ron Marr discusses the conflict between urban and rural mindsets. It is my contention that urban vs rural is far more accurate than right vs left, Republican vs Democrat, black vs white, Christian vs Pagan, or any of the other dichotomies we're constantly bombarded with. It is the defining gap in our public discourse -- the seemingly unbridgeable chasm that separates us and them. A few choice quotes:

    If you live away from a city you are stupid. If you would rather go bowling than travel to an art gallery you are crude. If you believe government wields too heavy a hand you are a radical militia member. If you lack wealth or social status you are beneath contempt and should have no say in society's future. If you don't wear the latest fashions you are backwards. If you fail to believe as THEY believe you are a bigot.

    ...

    Rural residents may be isolated geographically, but many urban residents are isolated intellectually. They have NO idea what goes on outside their city, borough or subdivision. And yet they feel a manifest destiny to tell others how to manage an environment that they have seen only from the confines of a cozy vacation cabin or a luxurious ski resort.


    Hyperbole? Not from where I sit. I've seen it, felt it, experienced it, got the T-shirt. I lived and worked in Detroit for about 5 years. My lunch-table debates with my urban-mentality coworkers were the source of many a headache. The attitude described infested every word that came from their mouths. I was frequently in shock at the assumptions and accusations they routinely made and took for granted as the literal truth. Eventually, I couldn't take any more. The soul-crushing malaise that permeates urban life became too much to bear, and I moved us to Oklahoma. It was either that or go completely insane. I know these people exist, and that's about as close as I want to get to them for a good long time.

    Posted by Tom, 12/8/2003 10:33:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Turn in Your Neighbor

    Here's a good article from Reason discussing one of the overlooked provisions of USA PATRIOT.

    Posted by Tom, 12/8/2003 10:22:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Personal Conflict

    The hubbub continues to increase over the FCC's recent ruling about the infamous "F" word. I'm torn between the desire to see some decorum in the media and a desire to keep free speech free. I suppose it could make a fair amount of sense to open it to market forces -- perhaps we could get some of the major media to take no-filth pledges, or see a new offering of a network that is specifically "family-friendly". Ultimately, I think the Donald Wildmon's of the world need to accept that it's going to be OK to use such language on TV, if not right now, then soon.

    Posted by Tom, 12/8/2003 10:21:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, December 5, 2003


    Jackbooted Thugs

    This is an old story (2001), but check out what passes for "justice" in Massachusetts. It's enough to gag a maggot.

    Posted by Tom, 12/5/2003 3:34:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Some People "Get It"

    A fair number of citizens have written letters to the St. Petersburg Times, in support of Melvin Spaulding. It's good to see that not everyone is a complete idiot in Florida -- I'll bet that a couple of years ago, these writers even figured out how to punch a chad.

    Posted by Tom, 12/5/2003 9:39:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Liberals Paved the Way...

    Here's a nice little diatribe about liberals crying when their pet government bites the hand that feeds it.

    Posted by Tom, 12/5/2003 9:19:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 4, 2003


    Funda-environ-mentalism

    Michael Crichton lays the smackdown on the envirowackies.

    Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists.

    Go Mike go!

    Many thanks to Four Right Wing Wackos for pointing the way.

    Posted by Tom, 12/4/2003 9:17:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Nothing Better to Do?

    You could always follow the lead of the California Fish and Game Commission and ban the sale of perfectly harmless petstore fish because they "offend your values". Just when I think government can't get any stupider...

    Posted by Tom, 12/4/2003 2:54:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    The Immaculate State

    Who is to Blame for 9-11? Indeed, who? Who created the legal climate that resists "profiling" in the name of "anti-discrimination"? Who created the law that prevented people from defending themselves? Who created the law regarding the proper construction of aircraft, along with a gestapo agency that lays the beatdown on manufacturers that deviate?

    Read the following quote twice, if you need to.

    ...once the hijackers made their actions known aboard the planes, everyone on board obeyed the law by following the hijackers' orders. Ironically, the passengers on the UAL's doomed Flight 93 broke the law by attacking their assailants. Yes, it is doubtful that the passengers would have been criminally charged had the flight somehow landed safely, but nonetheless, prosecution of Todd Beamer and others who charged the cockpit would have been a legal (but not politically feasible) option for U.S. authorities. To put it another way, in the eyes of U.S. law, Todd Beamer was not a hero; he was a felon.

    Consider the full moral ramifications. If you don't think something is seriously wrong with this picture, there's something seriously wrong with your moral compass.

    The government's own stupidity contributed directly to enabling the success of the 9-11 plot. Yet the government is held blameless by the legal system. Oh wait, "the legal system" is just another way to say "the government". Funny how that works.

    Consider the following, from DeShaney v Winnebago (489 US 189):

    ...nothing in the language of the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors. The Clause is phrased as a limitation on the State's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security. It forbids the State itself to deprive individuals of life, liberty, or property without "due process of law," but its language cannot fairly be extended to impose an affirmative obligation on the State to ensure that those interests do not come to harm through other means.

    All of the power, none of the responsibility. Add to this the wonderful institution of prosecutorial immunity. If you commit perjury, you go to jail. If the prosecutor commits perjury, you go to jail. So it's win-win, right?

    How did we get this way? Thomas Sowell provides part of the answer in his recent article about unnecessarily complex mental gyrations in courts at all levels:

    Although the 10th Amendment says pretty plainly that the federal government can do only what it specifically is authorized to do, and the people can do whatever they are not specifically forbidden to do, this was not good enough for those who had visions of a more-active government in Washington.

    Hey, where are we going? And why am I in this handbasket?

    Posted by Tom, 12/4/2003 11:19:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 3, 2003


    Lessons from History

    What the Plymouth Bay Colony has to teach us about the virtues of capitalism.

    Posted by Tom, 12/3/2003 3:47:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, December 2, 2003


    Recently Discovered

    The Institute for Justice is a libertarian-minded public-interest law firm dedicated to the bizarre proposition that a man's property is actually his property. They fight eminent domain on behalf of property owners, the Brave New Schools on behalf of parents, and defend freedom of the press for those without presses.

    Posted by Tom, 12/2/2003 7:56:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 1, 2003


    The End is Near

    The latest Medicare boondoggle will put us all in a world of hurt. Thanks for nothing, Republicans.

    Posted by Tom, 12/1/2003 9:32:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Great Stuff

    Santa's Subversive Stocking Stuffers

    I especially like the references to Heinlein, the medieval siege weaponry, and of course the .50 BMG.

    At least one of my readers will appreciate the shout-out to Linux.

    Posted by Tom, 12/1/2003 9:16:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Weekend Movies

    Finally went to see Matrix Revolutions. Yawn. The Wachowski brothers needed to leave well enough alone and not make any sequels to the first movie, which stood well enough on its own. Learn a lesson from Heinlein, Hollywood: Write a story, make your point, and move on with life. Sequels to movies that are pretty much self-contained are horrible. Sequels are for movies where a new story could be told or the old story needs to be finished (X-Men in the first case, Lord of the Rings in the second). The Matrix was neither.

    We also rented Finding Nemo. This could have been a good movie, but the big politically correct vegetarian message anvil left me with a sore head and a hankerin' for something dead to chew on. I can just imagine some poor mom serving up the fish sticks to her kids for Saturday lunch, only to be met with wails of "fish are friends, not food!" Add to this the completely unnecessary line "Those humans, they think they own everything; they were probably Americans.", and the big "people with disabilities" anvil, and you have a movie that really just makes me want to retch. Nemo needs to be flushed, and not in the happy-ending Disney way.

    Posted by Tom, 12/1/2003 8:54:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...