Monday, October 27, 2014

Taking leave

This site has been quiet for a couple months again.  As much as I like airing my frustrations, I just don't seem to have the time to do so.  Danger, the healthy little boy who is the brightest sun in my sky, is a thriving two year old, who keeps me running full tilt at windmills.  I just started into a new job that comes with an entirely new skillset, as well as just leaving a recent opportunity to learn a fascinating new trade (just one that I couldn't rely on to pay any bills), and repair and upkeep on not only my home but now my recently relocated in-law's home has kept me busy.  It seems that all the site is doing recently is gathering spam in the comments. 

This is likely not a permanent change, but for the present, this site is going to be closed. I'll be locking down the comments so I can safely ignore it for the present.  Hopefully I'll have more to say in a short while. 

In the meantime, though, thank you to all my readers, and good luck out there in the world!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bunkerville and Ferguson, Compare and Contrast

It seems an increasing number of people are comparing these two regional events, and with good reason. While the settings and outcomes are quite different, there are two things glaringly similar. First is that Police personnel are deploying huge amounts of equipment and quasi-military tactics against groups of citizens, even going so far as to detain or deny access to news crews who are critical of them. The second thing is the people are getting FURIOUS with them.

A couple differences that I have noticed- In Bunkerville, there was a goal. The BLM was pursuing the removal (some have maintained 'slaughter') of the Bundy's cattle, and eventually the family as well, and the protesters were there (in large part, at least) to prevent it. While well equipped, the stormtroopers knew they were not coming out the other side clean and shiny; in light of that knowledge, the goal was judged not to be worth the bloodshed. In Ferguson, there is no goal- only anger. There is no point at which the protesters and rioters can say, 'Yes, this will satisfy us.' Without a clear goal, they devolve into displays of anger, with seemingly random targets. The Police also have no clear goal- the end of the protest, or the violence, or just the looting, etc, is not a clear marker of victory. On the other hand, the Police are clearly enjoying an advantage over the protesters. At least in the beginning, it was clear to them that they would win any engagement, so they weren't concerned about replying with force.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

EveryPrivateGatedCommunity Against Gun Ownership...

So, plenty of people more eloquent than I, and more to the point, people present in Indianapolis, have noted the presence of obvious armed guards at the Everytown Rally. This is, of course, giving a lot of credit to the word 'rally'. Apparently, the group of people claiming the right of the majority managed to gather up to 100 or more paid and imported protesters, to oppose the, what, 95 THOUSAND attendees at the NRA Annual Meeting?

My observation? I wonder what those security guards were thinking. Do they recognize the irony in standing armed watch for a group of people bent on disarming the populace? Are they supporters? I imagine that more than a few of Bloomberg's paid heavies are the cream of the crop of the meddlers, statists, and rights-violaters in the NYPD. Are they just doing their job, working for the weekend? Maybe, just maybe, they would much rather be up the street at the NRAAM, amongst the lovers of freedom. On the other hand, they may be Bloombergs Brownshirts, the front line in squashing the rights of a free people.

I can be pretty confident that the protesters have long since internally justified the irony of protesting against guns while surrounding themselves with armed security. I wonder, though, what the paid muscle thinks about it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cliven Bundy, or, Where the Spark doth land.

This started as a comment over at Goober's place, but I thought I expand it here, as well, since I think it was worth saying.

Goober has made an observation recently that Cliven Bundy is A) Not playing by the Rules and B) actually, properly, and in letter of the law in violation of the lease agreement and therefore has no current right to run cows on the BLM land under question. He has a solid workup on that at his blog.

On the one hand, I think Goober has a pretty solid handle on both property rights and adverse possession. Anybody that gets shirty about that is trying very hard to fool themselves. Adverse possession is pretty solid, established law- if Bundy is arguing that, he likely knows that its not really a valid argument, but it makes a good smokescreen. One thing I should really go look for, though, is how/where his original grazing rights were granted. A good many of these rights were purchased from the Secratary of the Interior prior to the turn of the last century. For example, I know a guy in my hometown whose property includes the original Secretarial water rights that were sold to the Franciscan Order when the area was developed, around 1880 and change. If there's only 5 gallons of water in the creek, he has a claim on it. If Bundy's family has been in continual use of the land since then, he may have a claim, not over the land itself, but over the grazing and water rights. I'm sure the Palouse echoes with the repercussions of the water rights battle in the Klamath Basin and elsewhere; people in the East (very much including people in high rank at the BLM, I'm sure) don't always realize how valuable water is in our semi-arid West. The old saying is that Whiskey's for Drinkin, Water's for fightin over

On the gripping hand, however, its not really about the land, or the cows, or the man; just like the last war here in the States wasn't about slavery, nor the Revolution about tea. When a fight is spoiling, waiting for the drop of a hat, most any hat will do. Cliven Bundy is a rancher, not a Saint, but he has the support of state-level officials, local groups, and he's a more sympathetic figure than Randy Weaver or the Branch Davidians. People saw the BLM acting like Stateist Thugs and called them on it. Despite Bundy's flaws, I think that was a good thing.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Confirmation Bias, and Whisk(e)y

Confirmation bias is a fascinating thing. A portion of our psyche is wired to only accept things that align with our preconceptions. It makes unbiased facts hard to come by, and, by my observation, is one of the major drivers of extreme partisanship in politics.

In a departure from my austere content, we will be discussing Whisk(e)y tonite. Since I'm on the Left Coast, of course, this means many of you, my loyal readership, will be discussing whiskey next day, instead. A spelling note- I am apprised that the Scots omit the 'e' included in most American, Canadian, and Irish Whiskeys. In deference, I will omit likewise when discussing that elixir. Being Irish heritaged American, in general use I will include it.

I first started drinkng whiskey at an entirely innappropriate age, but we shan't involve ourselves in that. By and large, however, my introductory experience with whiskey was the various 7 year sour mash whiskeys, such as Jim Beam Jack Daniels, and the like. Being contrary by nature, I decided that Jim Beam was my liquor of choice, as it was generally the less requested and therefore less 'mainstream' choice. Being both young and foolish (at least one of those being partially defeated by now) I convinced myself that I was consuming the paragon of whiskey, and no other would do. Seagrams 7 may be acceptable for mixing, but 'tis none but Jim Beam on the Rocks for me! Years of this attitude have left me with some stellar hangovers, and my affection for Jim Beam wavered. Then, one fateful day, I tried a drop of a whisky just establishing itself among my demographic- Makers Mark. It was delicious, smooth and luxurious! I transfered my allegiance whole! Ne'er again unto Jim Beam go I, for I am now cultured (snerk) and suave (heh), older and wiser. I was 24, and really no wiser, of course. But I had decided that it was so, and of course my choices proved that I was right!

Of course, given time, wisdom does occasionally accumulate, which is why I find myself at a crossroads, and confirmation bias holds much less sway over my beverage choice. In time, I learned that the reason Makers Mark is smoother than Jim Beam is in part due to the wheat in its mash. Suddenly I had a key! Rather than deciding what my favorites are, then selecting my facts to fit, I could ascertain WHY they were my favorites, and investigate other options! My Whiskey world exploded. Makers Mark led me to WL Weller (actually, my Father in Law did, also the source of the previous fact), which (along with a recommendation from Barron Barnett) led me to Washington Wheat. A random reference to Rye in AMC's Mad Men sent me to Pendleton whisky, then back via St Patrick's Day to Jameson, Finnegans 8y blend, and most recently The Tyrconnell, a single malt. Curiousity alone brought me to Scotch- while its legend is nearly ubiquitous, it is a rather intimidating pool to leap into. Some sound advice from an experienced Scotch afficianado brought me the Isle of Islay, first in a bargain introductory bottle and bence to the dram I am sipping this even.

Bowmore Legend New Label, a mildly peated single malt from Islay, aged 8 years in bourbon casks. Its actually quite enjoyable, much smoother and softer than the various entry bourbons, with a distinct combination of flavors that come from the malt and the peat used to dry it. The malt flavor is a bit sweeter than corn or rye whole grain whiskeys, while the peat I described the first time as 'old foot, but in a good way.' Here, of course, is where the confirmation bias comes roaring back.

You see, its possible to spend some pretty wild figures on a bottle of 'good' Scotch. How wild? 5 figure wild. GDP per Capita money. 'Nice full size pickup or a fifth of Scotch Whisky?' type of decisions. My bottle is second shelf at the local liquor store- about $30. How do they compare? I've no idea, but I suspect that the more you spend, the more you will convince yourself that you enjoy it to a high degree. If I dropped $500 on 750 ml of disgusting swill, I certainly wouldn't be happy about it, but I don't think I would notice. Confirmation bias would edit my recollections, and I would drink it over the course of many years, bringing it out on special occasions to convince myself it was worth it. For now, though, I'm pretty happy. After all, Single Malts are way more suave and cultured than those uncouth American bourbons, right? Right...

Monday, March 31, 2014

I like Socialism...

in the same way I like flying. Not airplanes, mind you, but more like Superman. In pure, untarnished theory, it all sounds good, but everyone that steps off that particular cliff seems to end up in the same bag...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Regarding Heaven, Hell, and Fred Phelps

It appears the man is gone away from us, and I do not mourn him in the least. If I make any observation, it is that he, and the people whom he lead, have taken the teachings of a man who devoted his life to love and turned them to hate and vitriol. I have no respect for him, nor his followers, indeed I count them among the enemy. They have set themselves opposed to some who are my kin, whom I love, and thus to me. I'll mourn his passing no more than a rabid animal, or some diseased vermin. However, I have no hell to send him to.

Terry Pratchett, in one of many stories, touches on the idea that one gets the afterlife they believe in, not the one we feel is just. If this is true, the Mr Phelps surely feels he should be in heaven, and there is nothing I can do about that, because we don't share a God. How could we? We may read the same books, we may acknowlege the same church, but any God that embraces such hate is not one that I will follow. If he is right, and I am wrong, then I take comfort in the fact that I will not share a heaven with him, either, because I surely won't make it into his. If thats the kind of creep they have there, I don't want to go.

In the end, I'll just remain grateful- grateful I didn't have to meet the man, grateful I don't have to spend any eternity with him, grateful for my friends and family, the ones he would never approve of. Grateful my God doesn't require such hate.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Your Money or Your Life

A story came through mmy newsfeed this morning of a man in Seattle who was killed for refusing to give up his phone to an attacker. It occurs to me to discuss the idea of your possessions not being worth your life.

First off, the obvious- I put a much higher value on my life (and my family's lives) than on any personal possessions. The point I'd like to emphasize is that the person who offers good old fashioned violence in exchange for not giving them any money DOES NOT. Their opening statement is that they are valuing your life at lower than the sum of what you MIGHT be able to give them. Furthermore, they are explaing that they are just as prepared to take both as they are to take only one. This person does not have your best interests in mind, therefore it would be less than wise to entrust them with either your life or your possessions.

Frame it as a transaction- person A has some money. Person B has some valuable possessions. Person A wants Person B's possessions and offers to trade- except that person B is not particularly interested in person A's money, and would prefer to retain his possessions. Transaction over? Not quite. Person A has another thing- person B's life (or at least the ability to end it, which is, for our purposes, equivalent). By offering to exchange these two things, they are making a statement of equal value (or acceptably similar value) just the same as they were with the money. Person B thinks their life is precious, while person A is making the statement that the same life is worth, oh lets say $100. Does it make sense to trust someone at their word when they've just made the statement that your life is worth $100?

Take it another step- Person A has made it clear that he has valued B's life at $100 but he also makes it clear that he is willing to take BOTH. So what he's really asking is for you to agree with him- your life is worthless. Less than $100. He'll take both if he wants to, but he MAY, if he feels like it, let you keep a little of it. He's not offering anything you want, and if you don't give up the goods he may just kill you and take them, or he may kill you anyway after you give them up. Either way, they aren't much value to him. He has now defined the value of life, and its unacceptably low.

I don't agree with that. My life is pretty damn valuable, and I intend to keep the value of it. Joe Stickupguy is offering violence in exchange for a life he values at nothing and $100 phone- I'm offering an equivalent amount of violence in return. If he decides HIS life is worth more than my money, he'll decline to continue the transaction, and we'll all walk away from it. If not, well, we'll throw both lives in the fire and see which one burns first. I'll take that chance before I let someone kill me over the cost of a telephone.