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This is the archive for April 2006

Sunday, April 30, 2006

I wrote this many years ago, inspired by the then senior Senator from my home state of Illinois, Paul Simon, after he championed yet another futile and dangerous attempt to get the legislature to ignore the laws of nature, logic, and economics. It seems time to update it, as nothing has changed but the details.

Fables of the Collective - In Which Simple Simon Makes a Law

It was a fine morning in the Kingdom as young Prince Simon walked to school with his friends. He skipped, he ran, he jumped, he played. He and his friends were happy and excited, for it was the first day of their new school. Simon's father had built it just so Simon could go to the finest, newest, bestest school in all the land.

Simon's roughhousing with his friends often got out of hand and today, before he could stop himself, he tripped over a tree root and fell face first into the sidewalk. Damn near broke a royal tooth. His friends, seeing his misfortune -- and in the playful spirit of a fine day -- laughed themselves silly.

Simon, embarassed by his clumsy fall, became enraged at his friends. His friends being too young to be awed by the presence of a Prince, or to tremble with fear at his power, his rage only fueled louder peals of laughter and vicious taunts. Soon Simon, ever sensitive to the foibles of those he would soon rule, and already possesed of a keen instinct to save face, joined in the laughter.

But he did devise a plan. A great and mighty plan. He vowed that someday, he would make sure no other little children could crack their skulls on hard sidewalks. No one would laugh at him then...

Here's a quick quiz: There's a large combination of protest, boycott, and general strike planned for tomorrow, May 1st. What do you suppose the planned action is about? What is it's purpose?

It's understandable if you answered 'immigration'. After all, that's what everybody is telling you it is about. And certainly for many of the participants, immigration will be their purpose for participating.

So when you watch the news coverage tomorrow, ask yourself a few questions. How many Che Guevara signs and t-shirts are visible? How many Cuban flags? How many slogans opposing Big Oil, big business, and capitalism in general are chanted, painted on signs, and on half-naked bodies? Is there a disproportionate amount of red clothing on display? How do displays of Mexican nationalism fit with the desire to immigrate to the US?

What is the date? What is the significance of May 1st?

The ironic thing is that capitalism is the very reason so many people come here for jobs, its the reason jobs are here to come to. The honest immigrants - surely the majority - who participate will be working in direct opposition to their own interests, because those organizing and who will likely dominate the event are opposed to the very thing that makes coming here so valuable to the poor oppressed people south of the border.

Of course, its possible that this was organized simply as a genuine demonstration of the desire of hard-working people to come to America and reap the benefits of freedom and free markets, and that those who oppose such things are just a few hangers on who've hijacked the event for their own purposes. Sure it is.

tags:

Friday, April 28, 2006

I'd rather it not happen at all than happen like this.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This is the day that reminds us why we need a well 'regulated' militia. Because there was such a thing on April 19, 1775, because a bunch of regular Joes had plenty of long guns at their disposal, and because these 'gun nuts' liked to go out and 'play soldier', as it's now called, Americans the world over had a homeland for the next 14 years or so. Those few of us now remaining are homeless once again, a result of that two-faced piece of parchment excreted into our faces in 1789, but there was a time....

Ah, well, maybe again some day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Despite my obvious disagreements with it's provenance, the Mars Rover Program, which I've briefly mentioned before, is a hell of an accomplishment.

Now it turns out that the Spirit Rover, which has long outlived it's planned lifetime, has gone gimpy. One of it's wheels is dead, just dragging along like a man with a broken leg who lost his crutches.

One consequence of this is that it puts a crimp in their style - they have to be more selective about where to send the rover. Another consequence is that the dragging wheel leaves deep furrows in the soil behind the rover as it limps along.
But [team member Ray Arvidson of Washington University] adds that the rover's wheel failure is not entirely bad for the mission. "It's exposing the underlying materials as we go - that's a bonus."
When life hands you lemons... Just think what guys with that kind of talent, persistence, and optimism could accomplish in the private sector.

Hat Tip: Ned Batchelder

Friday, April 07, 2006

Law

From No Treason via Richard:
You bandy about the words 'illegal' and 'lawbreaker' as if they had moral content. They donít.

Werenít Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and all the founding fathers lawbreakers? Wasnít Thoreau? Or Martin Luther King?

Wasnít the Declaration of Independence itself an act of lawbreaking?

Men have no moral obligation whatsoever to obey or even recognize immoral laws, including many immoral laws that you are party to. Stop using law as a proxy for morality in your arguments. There is no necessary relationship between the two.
Regarding, what else lately, the immigration "debate".

The first sentence is quite correct, importantly so. The remainder, except for the last sentence, isn't worth quoting except as an example of how those who should know better too often have no clue what it is they are debating about. He might have convinced me he had a clue if he'd left out the word "necessary" in that last sentence.

You see, even these verbal battle-tested libertarians continue to see ideal law as a prime mover. Why else assert the right to disobey immoral laws if not as contrast to a duty to obey those that are not immoral? Why else trot out the authority of those we respect except to differentiate their disobeyance of laws they found illegitimate from their obeyance of laws they did not?

I'm not talking about the gross failure of our legal system to craft laws that deserve our obeyance - though that fact is certainly indisputable - nor some anarchic view that no law is legitimate and therefore no law morally obligates us.

No, it's deeper than that. Even accepting the premise that there are legitimate laws buried in among the avalanche of illegitimate ones, there is still nothing in the law that compels us to moral submission. That's not what laws are for.

Roll that one around in your head a bit before I go on, and think about the entire edifice of beliefs built on this one premise that even among you freest of thinkers goes unquestioned, even while you question all other things political:

Laws are not there to tell us what to do. Laws are not there to guide our actions. They never have been and never will be. That's not the purpose of law.

In the conceptual heirarchy of right and wrong, good and bad, should and shouldn't, laws don't come first. They don't come in the middle.

They come last.

Laws are a consequence, not a cause. Laws, legitimate ones anyway, are not made, they are discovered. Laws are identifications of facts of reality, of behaviors that cannot be tolerated by rational men. Laws don't tell anyone how to behave, they tell anyone what the consequences of their behavior might be. Laws, even in the idealistic utopia of perfect governance, are nothing more than prior announcement of the form of reaction to rationally intolerable behavior.

Laws come into moral context once we have chosen actions that trigger some reaction from the body poltic. Some laws may certainly come into practical context prior to that choice. But only laws we believe to be illegitimate come into practical context a-priori. The practical evaluation of the consequences of a law we find legitimate is pre-empted by our moral aversion to commiting the action it addresses - the law has no effect in such case. It is only when an action we believe to be moral runs counter to a law that we even consider the law in deciding our actions, and then not in the moral realm, but merely in the practical.

We are prevented from acting counter to a legitimate law by the pre-exiting moral constraint such a law recognizes, whether such law actually exists or not. We are prevented from acting counter to an illegitimate law only when the expected practical consequences of doing so outweigh the benefits of doing so. In neither case is moral consideration of the law itself of any relevance whatsoever.

Laws are solely aimed at those who would govern us. Their only purpose is to inform them what they are or are not authorized to do in response to our actions. The authorities, legitimate or not, are in a special class of people, uniquely subject to prior constraint by law. That's the price they pay for claiming authority, not from social or legal construct, but as an inescapable corollary to the concept of authority.

Legitimate or not, only those who govern must consider the moral implications of the law prior to acting, because it is only they whose actions arise from the word of law. And consider it they must, because they and they alone, those who act, are responsible for those actions, no matter what moral authority the law claims to give them.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I have an idea for Homeland Security. Seems they're having trouble telling the real terrorists from the innocent ones. They have to rely on members of the community, using very subtle clues and their highly refined sense of these things to tell them about people who must be terrorists. These accusations, no matter how far-fetched, should of course all be investigated to the fullest possible extent - no matter the cost of doing so - because, well, we can't have terrorists running amok in our community, chanting their evil spells, corrupting our morals, and making everyone very uncomfortable.

But how to tell for sure they are really terrorists? I have a simple test that I think should be foolproof. Throw the suspected terrorist in a large tub of water. We all know that terrorists float, so if the suspect drowns, then we know he is innocent. But if he survives, it's off to Gitmo.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What's a poor guy to do? He's into sadomasochistic sex, and wants his Schwetties lopped off as the ultimate expression of... Well, I don't even want to get into what it's an ultimate expression of, but his doctor obviously isn't willing to join the fun, so he goes to his local dungeon for a night of "pleasure" that will make him a new man, so to speak.

As you would expect, the local prosecutor has a problem with this.
"It's extremely bizarre," District Attorney Michael Bonfoey said in a telephone interview. "It's incredible the amount of ways that people can find to run afoul of the law."
I see, it's "bizarre" not because somebody would want to get castrated for some kind of sexual adventure, but because the dungeon masters don't have the proper licenses.

Apparently, there's actually a law on the books in Hayward county North Carolina specifically prohibiting "castration without malice", and of course, "conspiracy to commit castration without malice". This must have been a crime of epidemic proportions if it prompted the county board to spend some of their valuable time carefully crafting a law to address it.
"Assuming that the victims consented to this - and we don't know that for sure yet - that doesn't make it a defense," Bonfoey said.
Sure, we can't have people performing any kind of technical services without the state asserting their authority over it. We just can't allow people who want that service able to contract voluntarily with people who are willing to perform that service without the state getting their, um, cut.

There was no "victim" in this crime - nobody came forward to complain about mistreatment or even dissatisfaction with the unlicenced doctors' bedside manner. Police were initially frustrated in their efforts to keep the community safe from private, discreet consensual sex that is different from the way everyone else does it by the fact that the state and county legislators had not yet thought to pass a law against bondage and lashing. However, once some unnamed citizen made statements that implied that there was in fact something occuring there that the county had thought to make illegal, the cops were free to swoop in and protect their community from something that otherwise no one in that community would have even been aware was happening.

Apparently, it was at this point that, as bizarre as the whole thing is to the rest of us, it became officially bizarre to the politicians. But I guess it wouldn't be bizarre to this DA if all the paperwork had been in order.