Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts, omphaloskepsis, and other random musings.

Rule Five Friday

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (1)A couple of tidbits to accompany some warming totty on this frigid Midwestern Friday; first:  Boulder (CO) Considers Banishing People Who “Make Trouble.” Excerpt:

Taking inspiration from Shakespeare, a Boulder city councilman has suggested “banishing” chronic scofflaws creating a nuisance in parks around the city’s municipal buildings.

Councilman Macon Cowles said in an email to his colleagues that the idea came to him while “my mind wandered” and he wondered what The Bard had to say about crime and social misbehavior.

Quoting extensively from Romeo and Juliet, Cowles makes the argument that banishing people from Boulder for the same amount of time they might be incarcerated for minor crimes would not only save taxpayers money, but might be more effective at preventing future crimes.

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (2)“It seems a double hit that citizens should have to endure repeated acts of criminal behavior that are peculiarly offenses against the people who live here, and then, adding a financial penalty to the insult that has been afflicted, to pay the high expense of incarceration,” he wrote.

In Colorado, for at least the last 25 years that yr. obdt. has resided in that state, Boulder is commonly referred to as “seven square miles surrounded by reality.”  (Also “the People’s Republik of Boulder,” for 2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (3)different reasons.)  This is a good example of Boulder’s own particular style of wonderful nuttiness; the city never ceases to amuse.

But there’s a darker side to the Councilman’s thinking.  Consider it; Councilman Cowles isn’t terribly worried about solving the problem of society’s chronic misbehaviors; he’s just concerned with exporting them.  It’s the NIMBY attitude taken to an illogical extreme.

Now, while we’re on the subject of nutbars:  Iran:  We’re Ready for ‘Decisive Battle’ with Israel, U.S.  Excerpt:

In the latest in a series of warnings against the US, Iran’s chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi warned the Islamic republic’s foes that Iran is prepared for a “decisive battle” if attacked.

“We are ready for the decisive battle with America and the Zionist regime (Israel),” Fars news agency quoted Firouzabadi as saying Wednesday.

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (4)He also warned neighboring nations not to allow any attack to be launched on Iran from their soil.

“We do not have any hostility toward regional states, but if we are ever attacked from the American bases in the region we will strike that area back,” he said.

Let’s be honest; the only thing decisive about a battle between Iran on the one hand and the United States and Israel on the other would be the decisive speed in which the Iranians get their collective asses handed to them – in thin slices.

2014_02_14_Rule Five Friday (5)Even after two rounds of severe military draw-downs from our Cold War height, the United States still has a unilateral dominance on military power not seen on the planet since the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Iran’s leaders are good at making bombastic pronouncements for the benefit of regime loyalists, but they aren’t complete imbeciles – the last thing they’ll do is to engage the U.S. head-on.  They will continue in their role as the leading national sponsor of Islamic terror; they will continue developing nuclear weapons, and odds are better than even that they’ll use those nukes, somewhere, one way or another, at a time of their own choosing.

That’s the scenario that we should be preparing for.

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Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Happy Hump Day!

Halfway through an interminable week that will, on Friday, see yr. obdt. departing the frigid environs of the Upper Midwest for the warmer, sunnier home stomping grounds of Denver.  At least for a week.

Over at PJMedia is an article that echoes a concern I’ve had for some time:  Is It Over, and We Just Don’t Know It?  Excerpt:

Historians have a tough time agreeing on many of the turning points in ancient history.

One of them, in light of events during the past several years and the tone of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on January 28, seems particularly relevant. That’s the question of when the Roman Republic ended:

    (The republic) began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, c. 509 BC, and lasted over 450 years.

    * * * * * *

    Towards the end of the period a selection of Roman leaders came to so dominate the political arena that they exceeded the limitations of the Republic as a matter of course. Historians have variously proposed the appointment of Julius Caesar as perpetual dictator in 44 BC, the defeat of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and the Roman Senate’s grant of extraordinary powers to Octavian (Augustus) under the first settlement in 27 BC, as candidates for the defining pivotal event ending the Republic.

There’s little doubt that the United States of America has reached a point where, relatively unhampered by legislative or judicial barriers, its president and his bureaucracy exceed the limits of the nation’s Constitution “as a matter of course.” They in turn are quietly but effectively under the control of our “independent” central bank.

Sad-BearDecades from now, it’s possible that historians will look back and conclude that the American experiment, which began with its declaration of independence from and defeat of Great Britain, ended sometime between 1999 and 2014. As with Rome, the pivotal event isn’t obvious, and the list which follows isn’t all-inclusive.

For several years now I’ve been saying that the parallels between the dying Roman Republic and the present situation in our own republic are a little too uncanny.

There seems to be one difference; what in Rome was largely done by individuals (Sulla, Caesar, Octavian) is in the United States being done by the governing bodies.  The House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and several Presidents have all had a hand in the consolidation of power in Washington and the overrunning of the governing principles on which the Republic was founded, and which served its citizens for over two hundred years.

Is it too late to turn back?  Republics, when they fall, do not generally give rise to new republics.

Rule Five Friday

2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (1)Let’s talk about marriage.  Not specifically gay marriage, or non-gay marriage, or plural marriage, or interspecies marriage; just…  marriage.

Let’s start with this, an idea I’ve given some thought to myself over the years:  Get The State Out of Marriage.  Relevant excerpt:

In Oklahoma this past Friday, State Representative Mike Turner boldly challenged, “whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.” He floated a bill that would remove the state’s role of licensing matrimony. This was in response to a recent court order that strikes down Oklahoma’s definition of marriage as traditional one-man-one-woman.

Think about that for a moment.  Take your time, I’ll wait right here.

Ready?  Let’s move on.

Rather than defend the status quo, I’ll take a different tack; what good reasons are there for government to be involved in marriage?  I can think of one; marriage has a legal component to it, in that it is 2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (2)a contract between competent, capable adults.  (Normally a man and a woman, but that perception is somewhat in flux at the moment.)   Now, contracts are written and agreed to between competent parties all the time without government involvement; government generally only becomes involved when one or more parties violates the term of the agreement in some way or another.

How is government involved in marriage?  In one primary way:  the issue of marriage licenses, usually at the county level.  Why do we need a license – in essence, permission from the county government – to get married?

Many, many years ago, when I was a little tad, we lived on a farm near Fairbank, Iowa.  Our neighbors were an older couple, Grace and Brownie, who formed a treasured extra pair of surrogate grandparents for me.  I have a distinct memory of sitting with my mother in Grace and Brownie’s kitchen listening to Brownie, a stubborn, no-nonsense WW1 veteran and lifelong farmer, talk about 2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (3)his pursuit of a building permit to extend one of his farm buildings.  Most of all I remember his lament that “these days you have to get a permit from the county to take a shit.”

That was in the late Sixties.  Things have not improved since that time.

One could make an argument for building codes and the concomitant permits to make sure that those codes are adhered to, especially for commercial buildings.  But marriage?

Removing government from the business of marriage makes a great deal of sense.  It would make no inroads on the religious observation of marriage.  Churches of all sorts could go right on conducting marriages exactly as they do now, with a little less paperwork.  It would make no inroad on the secular observation of marriage.  People who are not religious (like me) could conduct any type of ceremony or observation that suits them.  Would some people forgo marriage altogether?  Probably, yes; some people already do.  The numerator may change some, but the denominator remains the same.2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (4)

Here’s the real rub, though, and this is why advocacy of this could be a winner for the slowly-growing libertarian wing of the GOP:  Removing government from the business of marriage removes the thorny issue of gay marriage from the debate.

“But Animal,” you might ask, “doesn’t that open the door for all sorts of domestic arrangements?  Doesn’t that open the door to polygamy, polyandry, and all sorts of other polys?

My reply:  “Well, sure.  But if government isn’t involved in the licensing of domestic arrangements at all, what changes?  People all over are free to indulge in those kinds of domestic arrangements now, they just can’t get a license from the county to formalize it.  And why should they?”

2014_01_321_Rule Five Friday (5)My take on social issues of this sort is based on one simple principle:  I don’t give a damn what people do, as long as they leave me alone.

Now, I’m about as heterosexual as you can get, in case you hadn’t figured that out from my penchant for Rule Five cheesecake.  I like women, and to my very good fortune women have always liked me.  (Mrs. Animal most of all.)  It’s beyond my capacity to understand why a man would be sexually attracted to another man.  But then, it’s beyond my capacity to understand why people like watching football on television.  And that’s OK; the fact that other people do those things doesn’t affect me.  It doesn’t affect my marriage.  It doesn’t affect my life.  It doesn’t affect me if two men, or two women, or three men and five women, or two men and a rosebush want to live together and call it “marriage.”

I know there are religious objections to gay marriage; I’m not religious and I don’t share them, but I acknowledge the depth of conviction of people who do hold those views.  This proposal can easily address that as well.  Churches that object to gay marriage should be free to refuse to conduct them.

Removing the licensing requirement from the equation removes the controversy.  It’s a good idea.  This Oklahoma proposal should be taken on the road.

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Rule Five Friday

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (1)Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, a historian and scholar of classical times, a man whose opinion I respect, worries that we may now be in The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization.  Excerpt:

Over 90 million Americans who could work are not working (the “non-institutionalized” over 16). What we take for granted — our electrical power, fuel, building materials, food, health care, and communications — all hinge on just 144 million getting up in the morning to produce what about 160-170 million others (the sick, the young, and the retired who need assistance along with the 90 million idle) consume.

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (2)Every three working Americans provide sustenance for two who are not ill, enfeebled, or too young. The former help the disabled, the latter take resources from them. The gang-banger has only disdain for the geek at the mall — until one Saturday night his liver is shredded by gang gunfire and suddenly he whimpers (who is now the real wimp?) that he needs such a Stanford-trained nerd to do sophisticated surgery to get him back in one piece to the carjackings, muggings, assaults, and knockout games — or lawsuits follow!

Given that the number of non-working is growing (an additional 10 million were idled in the Obama “recovery” alone), it is likely to keep growing. At some point, we will hit a 50/50 ratio of idle versus active. 2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (3)Then things will get interesting. The percentage of workers’ pay deducted to pay for the non-working will soar even higher. So will the present redistributive schemes and the borrowing from the unborn.

Why does Dr. Hanson’s opinion matter?

From his biography:  Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester 2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (4)courses in military history and classical culture.

Dr. Hanson is a scholar with few peers, a dedicated student of history with a deep background in the rise and fall of past republics, including the Rome and Greek republics – two nations which were in large part the inspiration for our own republic.  And it is familiarity with the manner in which those republics self-destructed that makes one pessimistic about our own future, for reasons Dr. Hanson articulates very plainly in this column many of his other works.

Dr. Hanson concludes:

2014_01_24_Rule Five Friday (5)Each day when I drive to work I try to look at the surrounding communities, and count how many are working and how many of the able-bodied are not. I listen to the car radio and tally up how many stories, both in their subject matter and method of presentation, seem to preserve civilization, or how many seem to tear it down. I try to assess how many drivers stay between the lines, how many weave while texting or zoom in and out of traffic at 90mph or honk and flip off drivers.

Today, as the reader can note from the tone of this apocalyptic essay, civilization seemed to be losing.

I wish I could find more reason to disagree with him.

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Animal’s Hump Day Inequality News

Happy Hump Day!

Happy Hump Day!

This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell: Fact-Free Liberals.  Excerpt:

Someone summarized Barack Obama in three words — “educated,” “smart” and “ignorant.” Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many of the people who come out of our most prestigious colleges and universities today.

President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again. Economic equality?

That was tried in the 19th century, in communities set up by Robert Owen, the man who coined the term “socialism.” Those communities all collapsed.

President Obama and various other pols, most (but not all!  Oh, no, not all!) on the left side of the spectrum, have been whinging on quite a lot lately about “income inequality.”  Dr. Sowell has repudiated the notion in a number of forums, including in his recent work The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.  (I highly recommend it.)  The problem with bemoaning inequalities in income or wealth – they Sleepy-Beararen’t the same thing – are legion, but the most simple refutation is simple.  I’ve done so before in these pages, but that post has vanished into the ether, so here it is again.

Let’s say I invent something new, something sure to appeal to a broad swath of the consumer market.   My invention, the Super-Kool Hyper-Gizmo, sells in the millions and makes me a billionaire.

Now, where did that money come from?  From millions of voluntary transactions, millions of individual people who decided they wanted my Hyper-Gizmo more than the $109.95 purchase price.  Millions of voluntary transactions, in which both parties gained value – both parties walked away feeling they’d come out ahead.

Oh, and during the realization of the product, I also employed a few hundred or a few thousand people, and did business with suppliers, shippers, and many, many others along the way.  All of these things were again voluntary transactions in which both parties gained value.

Standing-BearThat’s how wealth is created.  Entrepreneurship is the wellspring of wealth; creating value from ideas.

It’s the rare pol that understands that, or any matter involving economics.  They don’t understand that the economy is not a zero-sum game; it grows.

Now, let’s consider the pols arguing that income inequality is a problem, and that something must be done about it.  No matter what the pol claims, no matter what he proposes, all government solutions boil down to one thing:  Taking wealth away from those who have earned it, and giving it to those who have not.  No matter what the pol’s claims, no matter what the pol’s promises, it must come to that.

And government – government is the only entity that can deprive you of your property without recompense, with the implied threat of force.  (Try not paying your taxes and see how long it takes the government to send men with guns out looking for you.)   Free citizens, legally, can only engage in economic activity voluntarily.  If a citizen takes another’s property by force, that is robbery; if he takes it by deceit, that is fraud.

Sad-BearThat’s the point that must be abundantly clear.  When a pol whines about “income inequality,” he is talking about confiscating the property of one citizen to give it to another.

The proper way to address this issue is through economic growth, but for the last decade or so the Imperial Federal government has been pursuing policies that may as well be deliberately designed to squash economic growth.

Animal’s Daily News

Facepalm-bearTheodore Dalryrimple asks:  Should The Age to Buy Cigarettes Be 21?  Excerpt:

While Colorado permits the use of marijuana by those over 21 for any purpose, New York City prepares to prevent sales of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. An article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine comes out strongly in favor of this more restrictive approach to the sale of tobacco. The arguments it uses and those it refutes are instructive.

Those who go on to smoke throughout their lives generally start at an early age: earlier, that is, than 21. Thus if adolescents could be discouraged from smoking, rates of smoking among adults would decline markedly.

My answer?  Not only no, but hell no.  In fact, since we seem to have established the legal age of majority at 18 for the purposes of the franchise, then there is no rationale argument, morally or ethically, for raising the bar higher for any other reason.  If at 18 a person is deemed too irresponsible to drink a beer, hold a concealed-carry permit or buy a pack of smokes, then why the hell do we let them vote?

Enough of the incremental-adulthood bullshit.  If you’re an adult, you’re an adult.  That age will always be somewhat arbitrary, but it has to be set somewhere.  Since we have a Constitutional amendment setting it at 18 for voting purposes, then that’s our bar.  When you’re 18, you should be able to:

  1. Peeking-Bear-150x99Buy a handgun and apply for a carry permit, subject to the same requirements as any other adult.
  2. Drink a beer, or a shot of whiskey, or a martini.  Or, in Colorado, buy some weed.
  3. Join the military.
  4. Sign a contract.
  5. Buy smokes.
  6. And anything else that requires legal majority.

Sure, 18-year olds are sometimes (OK, frequently) immature, impulsive, irrational, irresponsible.  And sometimes they aren’t.  18 is an age of transition, where you have one foot each in two different worlds.  So, once again – why do we let them vote?

The point isn’t so much where the age is set – the thing is to have it set at the same bar for everything.  No more incrementalism.  You’re an adult or you aren’t.

Alice said it best.