Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Thinking about: Food insecurity

The term “food insecurity” has been around for awhile and is one of those squish phrases like “climate instability.” Jim Bovard did an excellent piece on it, but then suggested I should post one of my replies into my own blog. So here, regarding food insecurity and statistics:

My grandmother developed a taste for tabloids like The National Enquirer (“Best reporting on the planet,” says Mr. Jones) and it was always fun to go through the articles and look for The Nugget. The Nugget was the sentence, sometimes two, containing the factoid around which the story was developed – like the grain of sand in a pearl. For instance, there was a story captioned “Musket Ball In Baby’s Chest Proves Reincarnation,” Buried about 2/3rds of the way through the breathless story was the admission that “infants are occasionally born with roundish calcium deposits in their bodies.” If I recall correctly, such deposits were either harmless or routinely removed.

Likewise government “statistics.” Or any statistics for that matter. The methodology by which they’re gathered, the questions asked, the *way* those questions are asked, and the compilation and presentation of the results – not to mention the interpretation (or spin) placed on them all go into the overall scheme of things. Much like The Nugget, the raw data is frequently there, even if the raw data is nothing more than “crap methodology yields crap results.”

Any survey that uses self-reporting is inherently suspect. Not necessarily inaccurate or wrong, but suspect. Following Joe Snuffy around to observe what he buys, weighing his portions, and tallying every bit of caloric intake will give you a far better idea of what Joe Snuffy’s food consumption is, rather than a phone call asking “whadja have for dinner last night?”

Then, of course, there’s the interpretation. If the Great And Awesome Benevolent Food Program gives me and Jim $100 for food for a month, and I spend my $100 on fine chocolate to go with my bourbon, while Jim carefully purchases beans, rice, eggs, second-hand meat, and day old fruits to keep him well fed, my food insecurity (heck, out and out hunger) on day two is not a fault of the program, nor is the “solution” to give me more money to spend on food. But that’s the default for the “we need more money for the poor people” crew. The, as I think Walter Williams may have described them, “poverty pimps.”

In short – dotgov statistics *can* be useful, so long as you know their background. But never forget that statistics is a decidedly prostitutional science. It’s willing to do pretty much anything for anybody, so long as the price is right…


QFT: Obama’s truth

“This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war,” he said.

Very true.

The war on IS will be war IN Iraq, rather than war WITH Iraq. An important distinction only a lawyer and a jingo could love.


Got popcorn?

Thinking About: The Ukraine

Yes. “Ukraine” is the name of what is allegedly a nation. “THE Ukraine” is the more traditional rendering of the description of that sort of weird-butt no-man’s land between Europe and Russia. Note the stunning lack of any nation so-captioned in this map from c. 1800:

But the interesting question is why the whole mess has started to take on a Pythonesque air.

Ukraine: You invaded us!
Russia: No we didn’t.
Ukraine: Those are Russian troops! With Russian tanks and artillery!
Russia: No, those are just family members of Novorossians who found some very good deals at the local Army-Navy outlet.
Ukraine: The terrorists aren’t allowed to have foreign help!
Russia: What about all the foreign help that you’re getting?
Ukraine: That’s different. We won the coup fair and square.
Russia: But don’t the people of Novorossiya have a right to self determination?
USA: You cannot take territory that belongs to one nation just because the people there want to have a nation of their own.
Russia: KOSOVO!
USA: Excuse me?
Russia : Sorry, we’re allergic to blatant hypocrisy here.
Chechnya: Yeah, that whole “let my people go!” thing is a bummer.
Russia: Shut up!

And so on and so on and so on.

So. Will we make Moscow glow over a bunch of fascist coupateers, just because they happen to be our newest buddies in the We Hate Russia Club? Can the nation that argued the Monroe Doctrine and yanked large portions of Mexico away from its owners really complain about Russia taking an interest in land that formerly belonged to it – and is filled with people who want to live there (cf. further comparisons at “Texas in the mid-19th century.”

Got popcorn?

Thinking About: Ferguson

Jim Bovard asked when I was going to do a riff of some kind on Ferguson, Missouri, and I said it’d just be piling on and that I had nothing new to add to the conversation, nor any useful comments to the two polarized sides of the debate.

I will say, though, that there’s something inherently sideways in the world when one of the imperial vassal states, not noted for its own gentleness nor restraint toward opponents, is advising caution in the empire’s response.

h/t to Claire Wolfe for finding that link.

Jim seemed to particularly like one comment, saying, “Might even be worth tossing out to some libertarian sites like Rockwell…” in regard to my observation regarding police:

Once they went from “peace officers” working for the community to “law enforcement officials” working for the State, there was no turning back.

In fairness, though, another blogger whose opinions I seriously respect has a somewhat different take on the matter. Tam speaketh thusly….

Thinking about: Sauce for the gander

Thinking About: Culture – Us and Them

The phrase “gun culture” is frequently bandied about by the Left, as though it were some pejorative.  Well … why not embrace it?  This means, of course, that there must be a term for those who are NOT members of the Gun Culture (since every Us has a Them) and given the old adage about “free people own guns, slaves don’t,” I would suggest that the obvious descriptive for “Them” is “slave culture.”

It fits well, because they either already believe themselves to be slaves of or desire strongly to make slaves out of others to, The State.  Slavery, for the Slave Culture, is a natural state of existence and depending on their personal preferences they either hope for a kindly owner or intend to be an owner – whether kindly or not.


Got popcorn?

Thinking about: Who’s the boss?

Saw this recently:

Another police shooting

and presume that there will be no consequences to the officer, other than a paid vacation, because of “officer safety.”

But I have to wonder. What about “regular people safety?” Why should police receive any sort of special immunity from criminal acts, just because they’re deemed “at risk?” The fact that the risk to the general population is deemed unworthy of consideration by TPTB is quite telling. It’s been a long time since America even pretended to be an egalitarian society, rather than a nation of rulers and ruled, but they’re really getting more and more blatant about letting the peasants know what their place in the scheme of things is….

Got popcorn?

Thinking about: Viral blog posts

You just never can tell what’s going to catch the public eye on the internet. I am pleased as punch (Punch?) to have gotten in early on a viral sensation:

Happy Custer Massacre Day! by the inimitable James Bovard. Smither of Words and Drinker of Yeast Piss.

Thinking About: Hypocrisy

I forget where I read the idea that “what every slave wants, in his heart of hearts, is not freedom – but a slave of his own.” It fits in with the very visible “freedom for me, but not for thee” scenario you see oh-so-many people indulging in. Rarely does any freedopath step up and say, “I need to be restrained for my own good!” It’s always the Other who needs to be restrained “for his own good.” Or for the good of the freedopath. Thus the heavy drinker can, with a straight face, demand that marijuana be illegal. The coward living in a part of town where 911 doesn’t put you on hold (or the celebrity/politician with armed bodyguards) demands that nobody but his guardians have firearms. Or – one of my personal favorites – the communitarians who complain about the need to regulate the free market *and* corrupt politicians in the same breath. Just who, pray tell, do they think is going to regulate that market – unemployed underpants gnomes?

Likewise with the hypocrisy of the -ists. It’s *almost* a guarantee that any group that ends its description with -ists is going to be hypocritical at its core. Which brings me to this cartoon:

Sinfest is a wonderful cartoon, and in that little bit the artist has managed to catch both the ultimate in truths – and one of the ultimate hypocrisies. People need their own space to be with their own kind. Freedom of association also includes freedom NOT to associate. And yet the cartoon immediately brings back to mind my experience in law school where the newly formed Women’s Law Caucus (or some name like that) immediately made clear that no men were allowed. But one does not need much imagination to hear the howls of outrage that would have come if some men had formed the Men’s Law Caucus and had excluded women from membership. Or imagine, on a larger scale, what would happen if there was a proposed Congressional White Caucus to balance the long-established Black Caucus…

As a confirmed individualist I’ve never really understood the focus on skin color or sex as a means of determining a person’s worth for association (or any other) purposes. I recognize I’m in the minority on that, though, and that I’m just going to have to continue my progress through a world that cares about such things, because the vast majority want – or even need – to be able to kick others around with impunity, rather than agreeing to just live and work together in community.

Thinking about: Democracy

Democracy. From the Greek “demos,” meaning “mob” and “cracy,” meaning rule. Granted “demos” is more traditionally translated as “the people,” but I fail to see any practical difference.*

Yanis Varoufakis is a professor of economics at the University of Athens and has written many insightful articles about the issues Greece faces in these economically troubled times. Currently he’s directing our attention to the question of whether the internet can democratize capitalism.

Professor Varoufakis nails it on the head when he writes that my “qualms about direct people-rule are due to a deep-seeded mistrust of ‘common folk’” Which, indeed, they are. Because unlike Professor Varoufakis I am an ardent fan of that great philosopher George Carlin, who said (at 0:37 or so – and ADULT LANGUAGE):

In short, it’s not a case of “the capacity of the multitude to know what is good and proper for them,” it’s a case of “the multitude are dumber than a box of hair and their participation only lends covering fire to the oligarchs who are running things.

The real solution is not some sort of e’democracy as much as it is getting away from this concept that two wolves and one sheep are allowed to “vote” on lunch. Unlikely, though, because the wolves are not going to give up on the menu until there are no sheep left – and there will be sheep always…until they discover that the bullet box outweighs the ballot box by a considerable margin.

Got popcorn, Remnant?

*Professor Varoufakis says that the demos is “an active community of citizens in which the political sphere, the economy, the State and civil society all co-existed within the Assembly” I still fail to see any practical difference with “mob,” particularly when he talks about the demos “shaping the individual’s everyday life.” Which is what mobs tend to do, whether that individual wants to be shaped up or not.