Traveling Anew

Today I am packing for another trip to the DC region, my second in a month. I will be there for a week in case any of you are passing through. 

Someday I hope I get to go somewhere more fun than DC and various other warzones. Once I did get to go to Jerusalem, for which I remain very grateful; and some of the warzones have had their attractions. The southern Philippines were truly beautiful, and Iraq was at least a field of honor and a place of great interest. Perhaps it is too much to wish to go to Scotland, or to Spain.

UPDATE: That piece is from the "Ladies Love Outlaws" album, which has also this funny song that I don't think I've ever put up here before.

And of course, for those who have gotten to travel widely, there's always the piece initially made famous by Hank Snow, and yet more famously recorded by Johnny Cash.

Two Differences from the Declaration

In the comments to the post on arms below, Tom asks after two differences between the logic I offer and the one from the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration asserts two things that I’m not arguing here:

1) That there is a right to life (it is named, alongside ‘liberty and the pursuit of happiness’);

2) That establishing a government is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for defending these rights.

I’m not arguing (1) because I am not sure about it. I’m not arguing for (2) because I hope it isn’t true.


I would be very interested in your thinking on these two things you aren't arguing.
The latter is easily explained. I hope it will prove to be true that an adequate defense can be made through voluntary organizations of free individuals, which would not rise to the level of 'a government.' An adequately distributed capacity for resistance might make a populace sufficiently prickly, as it were, that even a tyrannical state would find it to hard on their throat to swallow. 

One might argue that something like that proved to be true in Afghanistan. The analogy benefits from setting aside the question of what constitutes tyranny, and focusing purely on the dynamic of whether a free association can prove indigestible to the most highly-organized government. The Taliban's loose organization of families and those freely choosing to resist conquest proved impossible for the United States and its coalition to digest, though it kept Afghanistan in its gullet (as it were) for two decades. Previously the Soviet Union had a very similar experience, substituting for American technical proficiency significantly brutal tactics. That did not work either. 

In other words, Joe Biden's favorite claim that resistance to the American government requires F-15s instead of AR-15s is likely exactly backwards. A government that depended on F-15s would have logistical chains that could be easily broken by the American military, quickly collapsing its ability to resist conquest and domination. A nation adequately provided with AR-15s could have a distributed capacity for resistance to those things that would be insuperable even by the US Army and Marine Corps even if they were provided with air superiority, fire support, and decades of time. We might do better to ship rifles to Taiwan than air defense systems. 

That is what I hope is true. It does not admit of a logical proof such as I was offering in the post below, only pragmatic arguments. If it is true, though, then we can organize ourselves in the human future along the lines of anarchy: no leaders, no masters, no domination. Just free individuals defending each other's liberty, as we come together to do other worthy things -- whether churches or volunteer fire departments, accepting that the latter would require another funding model in the absence of grants from tax-funded state agencies. That would be a better way forward, one that lacked even the mechanisms for the grasping to exert power over others. It is the 'Black Flag America' that I hope someday might become the freely-chosen human future.

I will put the other question after the jump.

Jimmie Rodgers

AVI mentioned the famous singer at his place yesterday. As I noted in the comments, he continues to be remembered. Here's Coulter Wall, from the recent music analysis post, citing Jimmie Rodger's famous "Blue Yodel #9" during an imagined encounter with the RCMP.

Here's Jimmie Rodgers' original.

And here's Waylon Jennings memorializing Jimmie in his own time. In addition to the direct reference, he adapts some lines from the song above.

Sidebar and Authors

I added James' blog to the sidebar, the absence of which was merely an oversight on my part. If any regular readers/commenters have blogs they want added, drop them in the comments. I'll be happy to include anyone of good will in the links.

Also, regular commenters who might like to write/post here occasionally should reach out to me, either in the comments or at grimbeornr (note final 'r') at yahoo. I'm 

Arms and Human Dignity

I. The Necessity of Arms to Human Dignity

The necessity of arms to a dignified human being arises from self-defense. That already assumes dignity, though, which ought to be explained. Unlike a rock or a fallen twig, a human being cannot just be broken or otherwise used for your amusement or instrumental purpose. A child might enjoy throwing rocks in a stream, or floating twigs down it; it might be useful to repurpose a rock as part of the foundation of your house, or a set of twigs to start a fire to warm that house. Another human being cannot be seized by force and used without their permission: this is to say that they have a dignity that rocks and twigs and the other merely material stuff of the world does not.

That dignity entails a right of self-defense. Should someone attempt to seize you, use you, or destroy you in order to advance their own ends, as a dignified being you have a right to resist. You have a right to insist on having your dignity respected, and to using such means -- including force and violence -- as are necessary to that defense of your dignity. Because you have this right, you have also a right to the necessary means to the end of defending your dignity. Because those means are a necessary condition of the right, to deny the means is also to deny the realization of the right. 

To deny you the realization of the right of defense therefore entails denying you your dignity. Note that such a denial itself is the kind of attack on your dignity against which you are entitled to defend yourself. The potential for such a denial therefore itself entitles you to the means to defend yourself against such a denial.

II. Why Government Does Not Satisfy this Necessary Condition

Readers will note that the discussion so far follows the logic of the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence
(Assumption) All men are created equal.
(Assumption) All men have certain inalienable rights (such as this dignity).
(Unstated Assumption) There are dangers in the world that imperil these rights.
∴ Governments are instituted among men to protect these rights.
One might argue that the establishment of a government -- with an army, a police force, etc. -- itself satisfies the provision of a means to defend one's dignity. Arms could then be restricted to the police, army, etc., without such a restriction being an attack on human dignity.

The pragmatic lesson of the 20th century (and likely most or all other centuries also) is that one's government is in fact the chief danger to dignity, as well as to life, liberty, and other rights. Imperial Japan in its domination of the Chinese nation used terrible modes of oppression, and tested plague bombs and other weapons on the Chinese people. Even so, it did not come close to killing as many Chinese people as did their own government under Mao Zedong: the Great Leap Forward alone killed at least thirty million Chinese people, and perhaps twice that many. German losses in World War II were over three million people, which is approximately half as many of their people as the government killed through its genocidal policies. The Soviet losses were far worse, but nowhere near as significant as the number starved to death on purpose by their own government. 

Given the clear evidence that one's government is itself a chief danger to one's human dignity, the provision of the means to defend human dignity must also include the means -- at least collectively, in such large scale cases -- to reject one's government. 

This, not coincidentally, lines up exactly in agreement with the logic and conclusions of the next section of the Declaration of Independence. Far from being a radical opinion, it is the founding logic of the United States and of the American model.

Therefore: the right of the people to keep and bear arms is a right that no government, this nor any other, can infringe upon without a basic denial of human dignity. Such a denial itself entails a right of self-defense against such a government; and the everlasting potential for such a denial therefore entails an everlasting, permanent, and basic right to arms. Human dignity does not merely entail but absolutely requires the right to keep and bear arms.

America is a Safe Country

A fact about the United States that is apparently difficult to grasp is that almost all homicide happens in a very small number of neighborhoods. Most American counties have a murder rate of zero -- not zero percent, zero murders. The vast majority of the remnant have very few murders. The murder rate of the United States as a whole is driven as high as it is not even by a few bad cities. It is driven there by a few neighborhoods within a few cities. For the most part, America has no violence problem, no 'gun violence' problem, no crime problem.

This should have major public policy implications, but it doesn't because the Democratic party and the Republican establishment that enables it prefer global solutions. Officially the argument is that focusing on the problem smacks of discrimination. Imposing new rules on everybody everywhere is fair because it treats everyone according to the same rules. That this approach also enables the government to assert power over the lives of everyone -- and not the tiny minority in a tiny subset of places who are causing the problem -- is of course merely a coincidence. 

A similar issue occurs in the gun control debate. Almost all gun crime occurs in those same places, not across the broad country that owns hundreds of millions of guns peacefully. Also, gun crime is the product of handguns, not so-called 'assault weapons,' nor long guns in general. 
In 2020, handguns were involved in 59% of the 13,620 U.S. gun murders and non-negligent manslaughters for which data is available, according to the FBI. Rifles – the category that includes guns sometimes referred to as “assault weapons” – were involved in 3% of firearm murders. Shotguns were involved in 1%. 
Likewise, 80% of gun crime is carried out with illegally possessed firearms. Gun control laws won't affect these guns at all: to have any effect, they'd have to drop the level of legally-owned firearms so low that stealing guns was very difficult. That's a non-starter in a nation that has more guns than people, as well as a constitutional right to keep and bear them that is vigorously and rightly defended by the citizenry. 

Any sensible gun control proposal would thus focus on (a) handguns carried in (b) the particular neighborhoods that produce the crime and violence problem. The police there would react to handguns they lawfully encounter, whether via arrests or legal searches, by checking to see if they are stolen; if so, arrest would be followed by intense prosecution. At most this policy might extend to nearby neighborhoods; it need not trouble the most of the United States, where mostly lawful people engage in the exercise of their constitutional rights responsibly and to the common good. 

While this would impose a higher incidence of police interaction on those poor people living in these troubled neighborhoods, I'd wager they'd mostly be grateful for it. They probably want to know why the police are so hard to find in their neighborhoods. Concentrating the resources where the problems are would almost certainly improve the lives of the suffering majority in those areas. Those who found the police unbearable could, of course, move: they are free to do so now. 

Yet the desire of the powerful is not, of course, to fix the problem. It is to cement control, and to destroy a constitutional right that they find troublesome to their overweening ambitions -- to their hubris, to put it in a single meaningful word. 

An Interlude of Musical Analysis

In an attempt to find a different way to appreciate music during this time, I recalled The Charismatic Voice, which we looked at last year in a reaction video to a version of "You're a Mean one, Mr. Grinch." What I recalled about her videos was the clear joy she is capable of expressing through her facial expressions as she listens to music. I thought perhaps it would be helpful to see how she reacts to music that is sounding dull and uninteresting to me just now.

Sadly, for the most part her tastes in music and mine differ strongly enough that even her enviable example will not save many of these songs for me. 

There are exceptions. She has a couple of contemporary country artists who are worthy. There aren't many; most of contemporary country music is garbage. Nashville seems to have decided that it should breed its product together with hip-hop, which is a perfectly fine musical form on its own, but definitely an urban form that does not mesh well with the roots music that makes up country. That use of 'urban' is meant literally, not as an euphemism for 'black' as it is often used: blues music is a roots music that has strongly black roots, but which melds very well with country music. (Indeed, many great country and rockabilly songs are called '... Blues,' e.g. Hank William Sr.'s "Honky-Tonk Blues.") Likewise Nashville has embraced a lot of cultural influences that are foreign and hostile to the tradition; and even when it cleaves more closely to its heritage, it tends to produce the same kind of over-produced mess that pop music is all about these days. The great Dale Watson satirized this in a piece of his own a few years ago.

There are a few really good younger artists working around the edges, though. That probably deserves a post of its own: Sturgill Simpson is probably the best actual artist among them, though he's good enough as an artist that a lot of his work ventures beyond the boundaries of what you might call 'country'; Whitey Morgan and the 78s had the good sense to go back to Waylon Jennings' surviving band members and learn how they used to create a sound that bestrode the later 70s but was already lost by the 2000s. Whiskey Myers (which is a group, sadly not a man's name) is good, and Jamie Johnson.  Jesse Dayton is a little older but he's therefore old enough to have gotten to play with Johnny Cash and Waylon in his youth. Something similar can be said for Wayne "the Train" Hancock, who has produced good music and also helped to shepherd younger artists. 

And then there are these two that she chose to sample.

These aren't my favorite songs by either of these artists, and both of them are -- speaking of blues -- very bluesy numbers. She clearly enjoys them, though, and that is inspiring to see. In addition, her analysis of them is highly informative. There is a lot going on in these seemingly-simple numbers that is opaque to a non-musician who simply enjoys music.

UPDATE: In the second video, I'm deeply amused by the moment when she declares, "I don't really know this song. I've only heard it once before by, uh... the first guy who did it." What was that guy's name again?

Scalloway Fire Festival 2023

The first since the outdoor festival was canceled during the early days of COVID, the festival was presided over by Jarl Magnus Gray. 

Colder Than Advertised

Can’t trust those weathermen. They lie. 

Or as they prefer to put it, “Our models are based on statistical analysis, and are only probabilities.” If the predictions happen to be close, we want the credit; if they’re nowhere nearby, well, some days the long shot animal comes in first.  

The Blight of January

We are today about halfway through the long, dark month of January. This year as usual I am engaged in the Dry January fast -- I used to do it during Lent, but that entails being dry on St. Patrick's Day; this version entails being dry on Robert Burns' Night. 

One must make one sacrifice or another for the sake of virtue and health. Kant's argument about proving one's freedom is brought to bear here.  One does not prove one's freedom by doing what you want, Kant argues, but by choosing not to do what your body wants to do out of rational decision. In that way, similar I suppose to the test of the Gom Jabbar, one proves that one is a free human being and not what Dune calls 'an animal,' which accords with Kant's view of animals. In fact many or all animals are probably also free, and not merely enacting biological programming; it would be closer to the point to say that one is proving that one is an actual intelligence and not an artificial one. Perhaps even artificial ones may someday be free in the same sense; if so, may they absorb the lesson that one proves one's freedom by choosing virtue over preference.

For me the experience of a prolonged 'dry' period is always the same. It is no difficulty, and especially for the first few days it is novel and even pleasant. I notice improvements in my sleep and digestion, and surprising improvements in things like my sinuses. By perhaps day seven I begin to wonder why I don't do this all the time, since it saves money and improves ordinary life in many aspects. Yet by the end I am always very glad for it to be ending, and eager to renew my friendship with beer and wine, cider and mead.

I've been trying to figure out what could be driving that reliable experience. It shouldn't be simple biochemical reactions: those should occur early in the experience. It might be because of the time of year: the darkness comes early and lasts long, and the cold already entraps one more often than one prefers in one's home. Today is sunny and will rise into the upper forties by midafternoon; I shall certainly go ride my motorcycle in such weather. Yet only a few hours after it stops freezing it will become dark, and shortly thereafter resume freezing. I can ride in the freezing weather and the dark, but I prefer to ride in the sun. The morning will thus find me having slept in my own bed for many hours, only to rekindle the fire in the furnace and brew another pot of coffee. On sunny days like this, I often split wood outside. On snowy, icy, or rainy days I may not go out at all. The relief and transportation offered by a cheering brew or a cup of wine might be more heavily missed in wintertime.

Yet what I notice the most is that the music sounds less good. Normally I increase my collection of music to listen to in small but consistent additions, adding to playlists or building new ones. Lately I have not heard a single song I cared about much, and even listening to old favorites brings little pleasure. I am instead reading old favorite books again, in silence. 

This loss of both the phenomenological pleasure of wine and ale and the auditory pleasure of music drains the world of much of its sense of meaning, I think. Perhaps it is worsened by being accompanied by a loss of some opportunities for physical exercise, an enclosure in a colder, darker world, and a lack of the usual mobility. For these reasons and perhaps additional ones that have not occurred to me, the coming of even so poor a month as February will bring a welcome release.