Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Category Archives: Thinking about

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…

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: 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: 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.

Thinking about: Change

Simon Black puts a veneer of respectability and adds some depth to the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in a recent article discussing revolutions.

The interesting thing about most human psyches is that, particularly in times of stress and upheaval, they prefer to cling to the known and usual. This is no real surprise – the unknown is a scary place and many of our collateral ancestors who wandered outside of the firelight got themselves eaten by something or other, resulting in a strain of incuriousity and fearfulness in the survivors. Add in a large dose of “it’s not my guy/side/issue that’s the problem, it’s the OTHER guy/side/issue that’s the problem” (see the disparate ratings between individual Congressmen and Congress as a whole, for instance), stir in a dash of greed and a pinch of envy, simmer the whole stew over an economic flame of limited resources and you have a perfect recipe for what we’re seeing in current events.

Is there a solution? Doubtful. So long as the majority of humans insist that there must be Leaders and Led, anyone not fitting into that mold will be quickly stomped down (either physically or socially) by Leaders afraid of losing power, and Led afraid of taking responsibility for themselves. The old adage about leading a horse to water, but can’t make him drink comes to mind – the Led are never going to want to think, particularly so long as the Leaders are willing to do it for them. Regardless of how much of that “leading” is driving the Led to the slaughterhouse.

Got popcorn, Remnant?

Thinking about: The rest of the story

I often come across news articles and think, based on personal experience, “that can’t be right” and that there must be more to the story than what the media is saying. Whether from bias, or a lack of curiosity, or outright concealment on the part of the writer (or, let’s be honest, the parties), the story just ends up making no sense as written. Doesn’t mean that it isn’t correct in every aspect, it just doesn’t feel right.

Take this little bit of joy.

Now it may well be that a municipal traffic judge in Georgia has Awesome Cosmic Powers above and beyond what one might find in other courts, but a quick comparison makes me wonder about these bits:

Riley went to court to try and get the fine reduced, but the only way he could talk to the judge, who is the only one who could reduce the fine, was to go to trial.” Most judges of my acquaintance are not going to go through the trouble of setting up and conducting a trial just so that defendants can “talk to them,” though a majority do require a guilty or no contest plea first. In fact, one of the worst things in the world to hear is on the order of, “No, the officer is completely correct, I just wanted to talk to the judge.” It’s a waste of court time, of officer time, and occurs generally because the defendant misunderstands the process, not because the court requires it as “the only way.”

There was no recording made of the courtroom proceeding, but records showed Riley received a much stiffer sentence than just a $250 fine.” Not unusual for a traffic court to not be a “court of record,” as they are called when there are recording devices. And stiffer-than-presumptive-fine sentences are possible as well. But, again, those are generally not handed out on whim but because of other factors that occur during trial. In theory those other factors should be limited to things like “lack of understanding” or “lack of remorse” by a defendant, but, granted, there are almost certainly judges who go with some sort of add-on from a trial request. Might even be statutorily allowed, for all I know.

Quoth the defendant (who apparently was not memorable enough for other court personnel to remember him and on whom the judge refused comment), “”I asked him to lower it, but instead he give me a $1,000 fine, 12-month probation, driving school and he banished me from the county,” Riley said. The only thing here is that the story is, again, single sided. The judge claims he can’t comment (possible in Georgia), other personnel won’t comment, so we have no real clue as to how or why the judge turned a $250 fine into $1,000 and a banishment. The method of “asking” becomes something of interest – there’s a huge difference between, “Please, Your Honor, I’m on a fixed income and it will be a hardship. Seeing as how it’s a first offense could you lower it to the minimum or suspend?” versus a defendant who clearly had no defense besides hoping the officer wouldn’t show and, at sentencing says, “F**K YOU, YOU FAT-A$$ED B*****D, you’re only doing this for the money!” as part of the “request.” Also, no note is made as to whether there is any suspension of that fine, and the fact that there’s probation involved suggests it may well be something like that. And Georgia must have some serious probation out of traffic court – here it’s more of a “don’t let me see you back in this court again or I’ll impose the suspended portion” thing.

Gotta say, though – that law allowing a judge “to banish someone from the county,” power, backed up by possible jail for offenders who return, is interesting, even if it’s rarely used. It reminds me of what I’m told was called a “sundown pardon” in Oregon: “If you’re out of town by sundown, and don’t come back, there’ll be no further prosecution.” True, it just moves the offenders around to different jurisdictions … but they’d be happier in California anyway.

Thinking about: Carrying firearms

There are some fairly solid writeups on the recent California-centric 9th Circuit decision in regard to carrying firearms, one of which is here.

What gets interesting, though, is the suggestion that states may prohibit *either* concealed carry, *or* open carry, but not both. Which leads to the question, though, of “what happens when a state prohibits concealed carry, but then doesn’t rein in police who harass lawful open carriers?” There are far too many examples of that these days, and regardless of whether the carrier provoked the confrontation or the confrontation was just on the uninformed officer’s own over-initiative, I would suggest that it’s probably going to take a lot of settlement money being paid out of taxpayer coffers in order to get the attention of The Powers That Be that maybe the pendulum really is swinging the other way.

That said, tyrants are not noted for giving up power gracefully.

Got popcorn?