Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Monthly Archives: August 2011

Q4T: Givers and getters

Quoted for thought: The folks who are getting free stuff don’t like the folks who are paying for the free stuff, because the folks who are paying for the free stuff can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff. The folks who are paying for the free stuff want the free stuff to stop, because they can no longer afford to pay for all the free stuff and their own stuff. But the folks who are getting the free stuff want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they’re already getting! Next, the people who are forcing the people who pay for the free stuff to pay for the free stuff, and who use the free stuff to buy the support of the people getting the free stuff, have also been telling the people who are getting the free stuff that the people who are paying for the free stuff are being mean, prejudiced, and racist because they don’t want to keep paying for ever growing amounts of free stuff to give to the people getting the free stuff so that the people forcing people to pay for free stuff can keep having the support of the people who are getting the free stuff. As a result, the people who are getting the free stuff are now convinced that they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff, rather than be grateful, and that they need to keep supporting the people who are forcing the mean, prejudiced, and racist people who are paying for the free stuff, so that the people who are forcing the people to pay for the free stuff can continue giving them the free stuff that the mean, prejudiced, and racist people are paying for.

Quibbles and Bits: Rationality

I admit I could be missing something. I could be missing many things – in fact, I miss things more often than not – but I just don’t think I’m missing on this one. One of the bases for things like Austrian Economics is that people are “rational.” Ditto with Ayn Rand’s followers. Unfortunately for any hope of understanding how economics and freedom works, “rational,” meaning “based on reason” has apparently come to be conflated with “sensible” or “agreed with by the speaker or writer,” with any reason that the speaker or writer does not agree with thereby being termed “irrational” and thus supporting a contention that people are irrational.

Let’s be clear. People do things for a reason. Unless they have some sort of brain damage or mental illness, every action taken by a human being is for a reason. The reason may not be one that is likeable, agreeable, sensible, or would be undertaken by any other human being – but the actor has a reason for doing whatever it is he did.

It is therefore with sincere respect I must politely disagree with Yves Smith’s assertion that it is counterfactual that people are rational. Even two year olds have reasons for anything they do, let alone forty year olds. While the actor may not have thought his cunning plan all the way through, or may not have been aware of all the possible consequences, nevertheless he did act and he had a reason for choosing that action among all possible alternatives. Letting the question of “why did you do that?” slide by with a two year old’s “I dunno” is simply enabling the thoughtless immaturity that is prevalent in the nation today, and the sooner we get away from that nonsense the more sensible (not rational) we will be.

Thinking about: Neurotic narcissists

In everyday speech, “narcissism” often means inflated self-importance, egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology, the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self. – Wikipedia

America is narcissist nation. In America, “it’s all about me.” But worse, Americans are neurotic about it – constantly fretting and worrying about whether the “me” is really all that important in the view of others, which is no small reason why those running the American State keep a constant eye on the globe for places to butt into, or areas where they can exercise the Ledeen Doctrine*. The American nation is a bully, though – notice that for all the feel-good talk of removing dictators, Kim Jong-Il is still sitting in Pyongyang because he’s got nukes and removing him would “get our hair a little mussed.” For that matter, the American State hasn’t really removed the Taliban, wiped out the drug cartels of Mexico and points south, eradicated poverty, or really done much of anything other than kill people and spend money. Which, admittedly, tends to be the two things that States get very very good at. The whole “formed to protect rights” is nowhere near as much fun as dropping high explosives on hapless schlubs a couple thousand miles away.

But back to the original point – it is unlikely that any time soon I will find a picture that captures the essence of typical American neurotic narcissism – at least at the individual level – than this one:

yeah, right

though I have to admit that the various ads for exercise machines, which are always being operated by people who don’t look like they need exercise machines – rather than blobs like myself – come close.

Yeah, sweetheart, pout and look dismayed because on a body that’s mostly skin and bones, you can’t get skinnier. I’m sure that everybody looking at Ms. Porky there can only see how obese she is, just like she can only see herself as obese. But after all, it’s not really about you – it’s about how you imagine others see you.

*Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.
– Michael Ledeen, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Old MREs?

Not every post can be a whiny screed about some facet of life or politics or economics or sociology or anything else that makes me grumpy. There should be a balance of practical thinking as well. So…let’s try something different and dig out an old MRE to test.

While by no means scientific, I have – at great personal risk – obtained some data for consideration by those who may be storing MREs as long term disaster preparations. Canned foods really are your best choice for that sort of thing, along with bulk grains and beans (if you know how to use them), but MREs and freeze-dried foods can make for simple and lightweight variations on a theme, and can be ideal for bug-out bags, if you like that sort of thing. The question arises, naturally, as to how long MREs last.

While living in Korea between 1995 and 1998 I bought several MREs for a BOB. I am told that the date code on this one indicates that it was probably assembled around the end of 1994, making the thing – and likely the others in the box – almost 17 years old. They have been stored in varied conditions since then, near-freezing temps to garage-in-Portland-summer levels of heat. Enough delay. Let’s break out the cutlery and good china, and see what we have:

Oh boy. Escalloped potatoes and ham.


Brown wrapper is not bulging, nor does opening it reveal any smells. Contents look like this:


The fruit punch in the upper left corner mixes up with no problem, tastes like Nutra-sweet flavored fruit punch. Fortified with that, it’s on to the main meal. It does not, however, appear we will be having any Tabasco with it. Bottle is cute, contents are nasty:


This is a reported problem with the early MREs, as I understand it.

Looking at the main meal, the package is not bulging, nor is there any obnoxious smell when opened.


Let’s open and dump it on a plate:


Doesn’t smell bad. Looks worse than it is. Tasting – needs salt, but otherwise no problems. And 24 hours later, here I still am with no gastrointestinal distress going on. So let us move on to the applesauce:


No problems with the package, again, open and pour:


It looks a little darker in the picture than it actually was. Tasted just fine. Again, 24 hours later and no problems. So let’s open up the crackers:


Bland, just a touch of what might have been staleness, but otherwise edible. I wouldn’t mind stocking up more of these. So far so good. Until we get to the cheese:


Oh hell no. 😯

It’s actually browner than it looks in the photo, and while it didn’t smell bad, a small taste was not pleasant. I’ve got canned cheese that looks and tastes better – so other than a small piece, the rest of this, along with what got rinsed out of my mouth, went bye-bye. Which leaves us with dessert, the brownie:


The chocolate outer shell tasted much like the candy bars I remember from C-rations. But there was a hint of something unpleasant underneath – while it could have been a residue of the cheese taste, not being willing to become a martyr for science, it got tossed.

I did not use the cocoa powder nor any of the stuff in the specialty packet. Nor did I try firing up the heater, since those things generally last forever.

So, in conclusion:

Main meal, drink, and fruit seemed just fine. Cheese and Tabasco were clearly out of bounds. Brownie – may have suffered from oral proximity to cheese, but better safe than sorry. Part of the problem is that I’d never had any of the issue-when-fresh ones, so I’m not completely sure what the stuff should taste like when it’s right. It could well be that the cheese is supposed to taste like crap and that the brownie wasn’t much better. I would leave that commentary open for those who were in after I was and have a better baseline.

Word of the day: Solutionism

While the American cultural attitude toward problem-resolution has been – and can be – admirable, nonetheless the nation really needs to recognize that not every problem has a solution, as the first step toward recovery from the solutionism that is currently infecting the civic body, much to the detriment of allowing yer averij resident to just get on with his life.

Thinking about: Political mindsets

A person chooses his political affiliation based – in no small part – on his own mindset and view of the world. The Democratic party, as best I can tell, attracts herdthinkers (i.e. those who always think in terms of “the group”) and nannystaters, while the Republican party seems to be somewhat more oriented toward individuals and daddystaters. This is by no means a blanket assertion, as there are no end of variations on a theme and individuals have all sorts of reasons for affiliating one way or the other. Both parties also have – no surprise – a very strong us vs. them view of the world (which is no small part of why things will be coming crashing down in the near future, as the polarization meets the limits of resources).

One nice piece of evidence for this is when I talk to a Democrat, and criticize Democrats or their policies, the Democrat immediately, almost universally, and wrongly accuses me of being a Republican. Republians, on the other hand, will recognize me as being Something Else on the political spectrum, but not per se a Democrat. Rs recognize that individuals form groups, and that not every group in opposition to R policies is going to necessarily be a Democrat.

This is also a demonstration of the Ds tendency toward an unacknowledged elitism – for a D, there can be Only One Other Group Worthy Of Notice. Smaller groups, communists, libertarians, constitutionalists, socialists (ones who aren’t already Ds), and so on) don’t really count.

Of course, there are thoughtful Ds and not-so-bright Rs who will not fit into the observation above – but that, after all, is a purpose of blogging – to toss out observations that may (or may not) be accurate and/or worthy of further discussion. 😀

OTB: Banks as public utilities?

From Naked Capitalism – the best daily economic stop on the web:

Why not, though? Since they’ve effectively socialized their losses while keeping their profits private, maybe it’s time for a different view of banks and banking, particularly given the State’s reluctance to allow private banks – or the lack of desire by states (other than North Dakota) to establish them.

Thinking about: Libertarians

Mama Liberty pointed out in comments that she’s not a libertarian. I suppose I’d ask her in comments here just what she defines “libertarian” as, and why she’s not one (since she’s of some nodding acquaintance). But there’s a difference between “libertarian” which is another flavor of, say, “anarcho-capitalist” or “free-market adherent” or – my personal favorite from law school, as used by one of the Green professors, “privateer.” I’d offer as my definition that a libertarian is someone who believes that “that government is best, which governs least,” who supports the freedom of individuals to consensually engage in behavior (contracted or not) without interference* from third parties, and agrees that the initiation of force is a Bad Thing.

Then there are the “libertarians” who like to sign on for the “personal freedom” part, but really are nothing more than libertines. Anybody, like this guy, who says he’d “torture for fun” is not a libertarian, was likely never a libertarian, and a screed that explains why he’s not something he decidedly wasn’t is just so much web-based ego stroking.

Which, for that matter, is what my friend Brian says most blogs are, likely this one included. 😀

*attempted persuasion, verbal or in writing, is not interference.

OTB: Why not, for once, help the little guy?

The State mucking around with the economy is generally a Very Bad Idea. But why not try this Outside The Box idea:

Instead of paying ever more (borrowed) money to the Big Banks, why not declare a one year moratorium on income taxes? That’s right, no taxes collected – or due – for individual filers for the tax year. Corporations would still need to file and pay. The amount of money “lost” would be about the same as was borrowed for TARP, so the results would be similar on the balance sheets – but think about the economic effects of putting hundreds of dollars back in people’s pockets every month.

It’s OTB – but tell me why it’s wrong.

Thinking about: Religious wars

Religious wars are the vilest form of an essentially vile business. Quoting H. Beam Piper’s Lord Kalvan Of Otherwhen from memory.

It’s true, though, even if uttered by a fictional character. Organized murder for the sake of land or loot is vaguely understandable – if not acceptable – but killing someone because he eats his shellfish with the wrong hand? Where’s the sense of that?

And it’s not an issue of “God told me to.” That doesn’t work – and don’t give me Maggot’s rationale from The Dirty Dozen movie about god not being restricted in his choice of tools. If your god is so pathetic and pitiful that he can’t smite the heathen on his own, then maybe it’s time for you to think about finding a different god to follow. What part of “omnipotent” is not on the label, after all? The problem is that for most people, “God” is viewed more as a personal servant, someone they petition for their own goodies or use as an excuse to take out their own prejudices and fears on The Other. “Holy Dralm and no quarter!” means it’s okay – dare I say, “sanctified” – to slaughter the living bejeebers out of men, women, and children because they’re different. Ordinary calm, cool, collected people who otherwise would not even lift a hand to spank their own child are quite willing to push buttons, yank cords, or pull triggers that rain death and destruction down on folks whose crime is … difference.

Religion – and its wars – does not even need to involve dressing up in your Godday best and going along with other worshipers to a Special Place. An excellent working definition of religion is, “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.” Seems to me that that describes statists and their relationship with the State perfectly.

Think about it – they pray for relief from whatever their problems are and, unlike some more fickle gods, the State actually performs visible miracles. Or what seem to be miracles to the uninitiated. The great god State smites enemies, provides wealth, is very accessible if petitioners make the right sacrifices, and, in general, is just the sort of god that many people dream of having. For those who would argue that there’s no “superhuman” or “supernatural” component to the great god State, just listen to its worshipers. There is nothing that the State cannot do – it can keep its worshipers safe from evil, rehabilitate (or smite) the heathen, dispense largesse … all without those pesky natural restraints that ordinary humans suffer from in regard to “limited resources.”

Moreover, the priests of the State have no qualms about conveying to the State’s worshipers exactly what a kind and benevolent god they’ve chosen. Their god can feed the hungry (food stamps), heal the lame (Medicare and Obamacare), shelter the lost (Section 8, public housing), and all at no cost to the worshipers. Worshipers flock to this god in droves, and woe betide the heathen in the wilderness who dare suggest that there’s a strong whiff of clay around the toes of the god.

So how does this all bear on religious wars? Well, it seems that not everyone worships the State, nor does everyone worship the State that is within the local boundaries. It’s pretty inevitable, then, that at some point the worshipers of the State and those who follow other religions – liberty comes to mind – are going to clash. When it finally does, the vile business will be among the most vile of its forms.

Got popcorn?