Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Thinking about: Veterans

I’m just an ordinary veteran, not a retired one. But I am a veteran with a degree in history.

As a student of history, I’m firmly in the “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot” camp.


How does that old song go, second verse same as the first? Little bit louder, little bit worse?

What’s going to happen when the members of the Entitlement Generation don’t get their goodies, while the minders of the purse continue to reward their cronies?

Got popcorn?


Thinking about: Domestication

There’s a Russian experiment on domestic animals that demonstrates how, over generations, domesticated animals undergo physical changes. Presumably they may well undergo mental changes as well, a theory that Oleg Volk hits on in his post.

Are thoughtfulness, initiative, and a taste for freedom versus a willingness to be kept nature? Nurture? Difficult to say, but it’s an issue also being discussed over at Claire’s blog. And, I’d say, one worth being discussed among the freedomistas.

Thinking about: Leaders and fuehrers

From a conversation elsewhere, the herd follower in italics, my comments in bold:

It’s easy to say you don’t follow the leader while following the leader but walking backward, looking in a different direction, or taking the long trail that leads to the same place.

Yeah, the whole “I’m a self-motivated and thoughtful individual, but I can’t really explain WHY I think the way I do and just HAPPEN to be heading the way my fuehrer told me to” thing. They may have the thoughts in their heads, but they’re not thoughts they developed or worked through for them. They’re just the thoughts of the fuehrer.

It’s not really a leader/follower thing. It’s not really a weed legality effect thing either. I’m thinking it’s more of a “how do my actions affect others in the village?” thing. Even if you say you aren’t in the tribe you are living in the village. It’s human nature to live in a tribe (pack/herd? – depending on your outlook). There are a lot of people here who could survive all alone in the woods but who the hell wants to? When you moved to MI did you take your family? Why not go full freedom and be free of those obligations? I’m sure nurture has a lot to do with why you didn’t but I have no doubt nature played a part.

Well…… sorta. You’re looking at different parts of what’s arguably the same elephant.

Certainly a HUGE component is one you’ve put your finger on – “How do my actions affect others around me.” Not even necessarily

The Village

as you may well be a visitor in someone else’s village – but the considerations about how your actions affect others need to be taken. And all too often aren’t.

Of course, you’ve also dipped into a reason why sheeple exist and thrive – fuehrers can often give them MORE freedom, though, arguably, “license” would be a better word. There are far too many barbarians (as in “one lacking in civilization”) in the world who love having a basis for living out their barbaric fantasies, of whatever stripe. There is no better license – until it’s revoked – than “I was just following orders.” Of course, that license can be revoked either by a stronger power, or even by their own fuehrer who may need to throw somebody to the wolves to keep his own posterior in power…

When we have a tribe we need to have some order.

Correct. Remember, though, “anarchy” does not mean “without order.” It means “without leaders.” Or, as I’m using the word here due to its negative connotations, “fuehrers.” ANY social group, whether a fully knit by ties of blood clan, a looser knit tribe, the “brittle society” found on, say, a cruise ship, the varying methods of organizing military units, etc. etc. etc., is going to need order. The question, though, is how is that order developed and imposed.

In nature it probably started out with a leader setting the boundaries (ok, maybe it is about leaders). A lot of them killed each other off. So some of the smarter ones realized that it would be an easier life to move the tribe to some other place that has all the resources needed to carry on (that or they were convinced by the smarter members) without having to deal with interference of the other tribes.

In nature it started out with the family unit. The head (not necessarily the leader) was probably dad or grand dad. The head was probably the biggest, meanest, toughest, surviving alpha male around. And don’t think “Ozzie and Harriet Australopithocine Nuclear Family” when I say “family unit,” we’re certainly talking clans, at minimum. Related by blood and ties of family.

Clans allied. Clans fought. Clans feuded. Clans may well have gone to war. But, eventually, you had clans forming into tribes – groups of clans (and even individuals) not necessarily related by blood, though there were likely ties involved as well. This grouping model then continued into what we would consider “modern” humans. And, for that matter, is still a large part of social structure today. One of the unspoken objectives of The State is to develop strategies to break down and wipe out those traditional human bonds that keep people more loyal to each other than to The State. See further examples at “mandatory public schooling and pre-schooling” and “day care” and “welfare.” But I digress.

Early rules were probably basic and hobbesian. Law of the jungle stuff. As tribes grew in size, so did their geographic boundaries and the opportunities to come into contact with other tribes. Such growth and contact created both crises and opportunities. War and trade, both within and without. But also a lot of social contact with differing amounts of intra-tribe affairs. Chief JAFO might suddenly find himself having to explain why Chief coctailer’s tribe seemed so much better fed and why Chief coctailer’s tribe didn’t seem to have every female at the disposal of the chief. Depending on the solidarity of Chief JAFO’s tribe to himself, it might be war to take Chief coctailer’s tribe’s wealth … or one day Chief JAFO may have woken up to find himself a Tribe Of One. Or not woken up at all.

So here we are. The tribes have all spread out and there aren’t many places for offshoot tribes to form new villages.

THIS is a huge part of the problem, yes. A tribe can no longer break into parts with each part going its own way. Or, as I understand to be the case, just leaving the chief behind. We’ve moved too far down the spectrum from early, “mechanical” societies and into modern “organic” ones, due both to the size of our populations and the growth of the city-based social structure. Add to that the rise of the Professional Fuehrer class, a group dedicated to the idea of shearing the herd for its own economic and psychic benefit, and you get, as you say, to this point today.

Now some of the leaders of the sub tribes want to smoke week and bang each other in the arse but they have no place to do that without pissing a lot of other leaders, with no place to go, off. Oh crap, maybe it is a weed and buttseks thing.

Small parts of the overall problem. Tribal chiefs used to have to maintain their positions through skill. If you couldn’t lead your tribe to where the goodies were, you weren’t chief for very long. That’s still in force today – you have to lead your tribe to the goodies, or you’re out. The other thing you need to do is to convince your tribe to stay together, and since Chief One there has been a winning strategy: Leading them to goodies is good; keeping them afraid of The Other is better. Which is the summary difference (to my way of thinking) between a leader and a fuehrer. A good leader is looking out for the wellbeing of his tribe. It certainly includes guiding them to where the fat antelope are playing, and would of necessity include making sure that the tribe can defend itself. (Note – a leader may be good, as in wanting to do those, but be ineffective in how he manages it. An ineffective leader is not necessarily a fuehrer.) A leader considers himself part of the tribe and wants to benefit himself as part of benefiting the tribe as a whole.

A fuehrer, on the other hand, is all about himself and, at best, a small band of close loyal followers – cronies, as it were. He cares not a whit nor a fig for the needs of those he’s “leading,” and every action, first and foremost, is dedicated toward increasing his own personal wealth and power – frequently for nothing more than the sake of having the increase. The people of his “tribe” are nothing more than sheep to be sheared for his and his cronies’ benefit. He is the sort about whom H.L.Mencken wrote when he said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

I guess the moral of my story is… fuck you and the leader you choose to follow if he wants the tribal council of leaders to put in writing that you can smoke weed and have buttseks in front of me and the children I haven’t created with the woman I haven’t dragged back to my cave.

Which just suggests that you’re willing to follow and support a fuehrer who’ll make sure that individuals, who are harming no one, are nevertheless forced to conform to your world view. Because you, personally, are not going to be allowed to go around smiting Weedites and Buttsecksites on your vigilante ownsome – you’re going to need a license to do so, and fuehrers are happy to give you such license.

Of course, if you’re supportive of the whole concept of fuehrers, then you really don’t have any basis to whine if other fuehrers do get ahold of the tribal council and make weed and buttsecks and pedophilia completely legal. You’ve agreed to the concept of “tribal councils get to control your actions and are the ultimate source of moral authority.”

And there’s a whole separate essay on the difference between “following” a leader and “accepting the directions” of a leader (or fuehrer). You’re kind of conflating the two.

Oh, and fuck you and the leader you choose to follow if he just wants to erase ALL of the rules set forth by former leaders. It would be nice if being nice was good enough but we all know that wouldn’t be nice. So raise your tribe the best you can and maybe one of them will be the next leader after the current leaders kill each other off. I’m just going to come out of my cave once in a while and beat my chest.

Because, you know, slavery and entrenched oligarchy are such good rules to have – erasure is a baaaad thing?

Don’t hurt people. Don’t take their stuff. And if you do either of those, you have to make it right.

Three simple rules … and all you really need for a smoothly functioning social group. Everything else is either mitigation or aggravation.

Anything beyond those is suggestive that fuehrers, not leaders, are at work.

Thinking about: Wrong handers

Apparently I am not alone in the world in regard to shooting with the wrong hand and writing etc. with the good hand.

Tam agrees.

Thinking about: Narcissists

It’s nice that Salon has discovered that the American government – at all levels, really – is mostly about “feel good” rather than “actual results.” One really has to ask, though, why it took them so long to come to the party that libertarians have known about for decades.

Thinking about: Disparity of force

So if Syria destroys its chemical weapons, but the theocratic rebels keep theirs … I guess the Syrian army needs to heavily upgrade its NBC warfare skills (defense).

Of course, that just means that the next time the theocrats use theirs, Obama will argue that the Syrian government did it and hadn’t bargained in good faith to avoid a brutal kicking by the US … and will use that alleged lack of good faith to finally launch its long desired assault.

Thinking about: “Fuzzy Pink Elephants Raiding Your Underwear Drawer!”

I am a big fan of John Mosby’s website both for the information content and in the way he presents it that brings back (the good) memories of my time wearing a funny green tree suit. Despite my great respect for the quality of his thinking and all of his good material, nevertheless I am going to blatantly steal his proposed blog title.

Just for the heck of it.

Go. Read his stuff. Think about it. But do NOT think about fuzzy pink elephants raiding your underwear drawer. I dare you not to think about it.

Thinking about: Zimmerman

I think there’s a law requiring all blogs – even cobwebby ones like this – to post up something on Zimmerman. Ergo:

“I am only required to accept the Zimmerman verdict. I am not obligated to agree with it.”

Of course, what most on the Right demand is that I agree with it, that I bow to it being correct. It is legal. I am not convinced it is right, but my conviction regarding “right or wrong” is irrelevant. Needless to say, the Left gets all fuzzy when I say that I accept it, since clearly one is not allowed to accept things that are legal – yet wrong.

That’s part of what’s fun about being a libertarian – I can honk off BOTH sides with one short sentence…. 😉

Thinking about: Immigration

A month already. My, how time flies when time’s flying. Thirty days having passed, it’s another installment of Off The Bench, where we discuss everything but court matters. And where I strive to avoid the temptation to spend 800 words picking on my editor.

Fortunately for the first substantive column I did not have to work hard to find a topic. The June 1, 2013 Herald contains a letter which asks the pertinent hot-topic question, “Why are there no Herald editorials on immigration?” Reader service is just one of my middle names, so with that in mind, let’s talk about immigration. Granted, this is a column, rather than an editorial, but letter generation is the overall intent and it’s the spirit that counts.

Let’s start with a definition. Looking online, I find, ” The action of coming to live permanently in a foreign country.” Close enough for government work.

Now some history and sociology: First and foremost, every living soul in this land is either an immigrant, or descended from immigrants. Period. While it might be interesting historically that some residents walked here during an ice age, while others thought that waiting for the Industrial Revolution and the invention of aircraft was less burdensome, nevertheless the only way that people have gotten here has been by way of immigration. America is a nation founded on immigration.

Despite that, attitudes toward subsequent immigrants have see-sawed over the centuries. I’m confident that some First Americans regret that their ancestors did not have tighter immigration rules. Which brings us to a huge point in the current debate over immigration; the descendants of people who benefitted from lax immigration policies are now turning around and trying to “pull up the ladder” to others who possibly want the same opportunities.

Dislike for immigrants by those already here is not new. In the mid-19th century, signs saying “No Irish Need Apply” were not uncommon, and Chinese railroad builders were not allowed to bring their wives with them. Even when immigration did occur, immigrants frequently found themselves clustered together in different ways: the “poor” part of town, or Chinatowns or, in Pennsylvania coal country, little towns almost exclusively Scots-Irish, or Polish, or Italian. Little areas full of “Thems” who quite obviously weren’t “Us.”

Despite the eventual acceptance and assimilation of all of those “thems” into modern America, we are still having discussions about “Them.” Now, “They” are generally Hispanic, though the Department of Homeland Security reports that there are more than a few “illegal” Chinese, Irish, Filipino, Indian, and Others hiding out here. There are three frequent complaints about “Them:” “They” didn’t wait in line to do it legally; “They” are taking more than they’re giving; or “They” are not assimilating, not becoming part of America. There are others, some interesting, some contemptible, but let’s look at these three.

“They” didn’t wait in line goes away fairly quickly. Until recently, most immigrants had nothing more than a wait and a medical check to get into the country, if that much. The Republic did not fall with a short admissions process, it’s not going to fall if the same – with, say, an added criminal history check – were instituted now.

The second, “They” take more than they give, is disputed, but assume it’s true. The solution to that is, again, simple – make entitlements contingent on citizenship. The staunchest libertarian would agree that a welfare state cannot coexist with open borders, and since we apparently can’t close the borders, the answer is to close the open welfare state.

The final problem … “They” are not assimilating, is a more serious one. To the extent that someone residing in a foreign country chooses not to assimilate – I certainly didn’t assimilate much, living in Korea – that is his decision and if not learning the language or customs or laws handicaps the person, so be it. But I’m not convinced that the host nation should bear any cost involved in catering to the “guest” population. For instance, I’m not sure that printing government documents in multiple languages is helpful. It arguably enables residents – legal or otherwise – to continue their separation. Since separation, rather than assimilation, is not something that holds a nation together, the more a nation’s population is separated, the more likely it is for bad things to happen.

Ask any Yugoslavian you happen to meet.

But that’s just the opinion of an opinionated guy. Let’s hear your opinions on the topic – don’t let the air between you and the keyboard (or pen and paper) hold you back! Tell us what you think either by sending letters to the editor or by emailing me at hermistonheraldoffthebench@gmail.com for use in future columns. Names of the terminally shy will be withheld on request.

Let’s fire this up again

Since the local paper wants a second, non-court column out of me, I may as well get back to work here as well. Here, let me explain:

So there I was, minding my own business – for a value of “minding my own business” equal to “seeing if the paper still wanted to run Courtside” – at the Hermiston Herald, when, using “The Voice” – not to be confused with a TV show of the same name – the editor suddenly asked:


Now the only way to describe The Voice to people who don’t work with editors on any sort of regular basis is to say that it’s like Darth Vader’s, but without any of his warmth and humor. The question, though, is “why would Herald readers want a second column?”


Had to be a lucky guess, because I have absolutely no idea how the editor came to that conclusion about a bland and harmless little furball like myself, after only a few minutes of conversation.


Like I said. Lucky guess.


Here’s the problem. The working relationship between editors and columnists can best be described as identical to the “working relationship” seen between lions and gazelles in any National Geographic program that carries the warning “Some Material Not Suitable For Children Under 40.” As an aside, I’d planned to describe the relationship as the one between the lion and the gnu, but apparently the editor still has some psychic trauma from a petting zoo incident in third grade.


Right. Moving on.

I’ve written and columned – if that’s a verb – for newspapers since high school. In my experience, working with newspapers involves working with information. Events of interest, analysis of ideas, ads for “desperate lion seeks tasty gazelle,” that sort of thing. Ultimately, newspapers are all about thinking. News for the basis, opinion for the structure, ads for tasty gazelles to pay the costs of printing. Good newspapers work to encourage readers to think about things (preferably about things other than gazelle recipes) and to take a general interest in life, the universe, and everything.

An important part of that encouragement requires the newspaper to have credibility. As I tell my public speaking students, credibility can come from many sources. Education, training, observation, all can play into establishing credibility. But one of the best forms comes from “personal experience.” How can a local paper achieve “personal experience?” Well, with local news and local opinion, for starters. People who can look out a window and have some idea as to what’s going on in Hermiston, as opposed to some columnist in New York City (or even Portland) who couldn’t find Hermiston with a map of Oregon and a ten minute head start.

Now, people write in newspapers all the time – we call those “letters to the editor.” Letters to the editor are the sorts of things that would warm the cockles of an editor’s heart, presuming editors had hearts, of course.


The reason that letters are so heartwarming is because it means people are reading and thinking about what’s in the paper. They don’t have to agree – oh, not in the slightest. In fact, some of the most interesting letters are ones that disagree with what an editor or a columnist has written! At least, disagreements that are thoughtful – “Your column of July 30th was complete and utter manure” is not a comment that is conducive to further discussion, sadly. Not unusual, just not conducive to dialog.

Which brings us to the question of the hour: Just what the heck will this new column be about?


Called that one right. The new column – well, we’re going to test fire pretty much the whole world outside of the court and legal processes. Humor, history, news, economics, sociology – I can make your eyes bleed writing about sociology, ask my professors – just about anything in the world, except sports. There’s a whole sports section for sports comments and they don’t need any help from me there, thankyouverymuch. Dialog with letter writers, news bits that catch my eye, occasional “broader” issues, but the commentary is really supposed to be local. Can’t promise that it will always be, but feel free to fire up the ol’ word processor and complain to the editor about how the Off The Bench column is talking about events in Lower Absurdistan again, and that really doesn’t relate to Hermiston very well.

One other thing. Out of deference to the editor, we will not be discussing anything regarding the gnu.


Because, without doubt, as far as my editor is concerned – no gnus is good gnus.