Forthcoming: Outlawry and Conan

AVI has a fun post about a pirate museum, and some thoughts about outlawry. In the latter post he mentions Conan, who is a useful interlocutor because he passes into and out of several relevant relationships. In any case these topics are interests of mine, and if I get a few minutes I will write about them. 

He also has a post on reparations, which I’ve written about several times. I don’t intend to revisit that matter, but it’s in the archives if anyone can figure out how to search them now that Google has banned its own Blogger platform from search results. 

Lainey Wilson

I don’t know her well, but here she sounds like a reasonable young version of Loretta Lynn.


Against Equity Theft

Raven sends:

Late last month, we reported on the case of 94-year-old grandmother Geraldine Tyler, whose Minneapolis condo was sold by Hennepin County in Minnesota for $40,000 to pay off a $15,000 tax debt: 94-year-old Grandmother Fights Home Equity Theft at the U.S. Supreme Court

The kicker was that instead of returning the $25,000 surplus over the amount Geraldine owed the state, Hennepin County decided to keep the whole amount! Even worse, the County’s retention of those funds was entirely in keeping with Minnesota state law, as we reported[.]

SCOTUS knocked this down in a unanimous vote. Raven asks how the lower courts could be so out of touch as to tee this up for a unanimous SCOTUS vote. It's a good question: the practice is obviously a form of theft in blatant violation of the takings clause. My guess is that government theft is now so ordinary a practice that a series of sitting judges couldn't see anything wrong with it.


I came to recommend a sort of travelogue today, and found that it won't be the only one this week. The book, recommended to me as so often by my Project Gutenberg toils, is "A Yankee Doctor in Paradise," and chronicles the work of a lone doctor among the French missionaries and British colonizers of the South Pacific in the early 20th century. This morning's pages start the young doctor off in New Guinea, after he describes the unlikely beginnings of a world traveler from among American stick-in-the-muds:
No, the hereditary Lambert is not a geographer. We are a homebody family, and I often wonder how the colonial Lamberts ever found courage to cross over from England to seventeenth-century New Jersey. They certainly stayed put when they got here; nothing but hunger and Indian raids could budge them. My father, who was a tanner and often used his best leather trying to teach me civility, was looked upon as something of a sea rover because he once drove mules along the Delaware and Hudson Canal towpath. Relatives in Ellenville, New York, where I was born, paled when they learned that Father was moving us to Little Falls.
Our pious Methodists always regarded Father as a freethinker; and wasn't it like him to want Sylvester to be a doctor? Mr. Babcock, head of our Free Academy in West Winfield, was even more radical. A boy ought to have a college education before he started studying medicine. I had worked with the tannery gang long enough, and had learned too many of the rich, brown oaths they spat out with their chewing tobacco. Hamilton College was the place to smooth me out for medical school. Hamilton College! My mother's hands went up at the spectral idea of a place so remote that Sylvester would have to go overnight, by train.
Once grown and trained, Dr. Lambert tromps through New Guinean jungles and up and down mountainsides to offer medical treatment to remote people. The priests he encounters always seem to include at least one expert cobbler to replace his hobnails or even whole soles. The Europeans absorb to some extent the South Pacific spiritualism:
Archie said thoughtfully, "Yes, and there was the woman dressed in white. I couldn't sleep one night, and there she was in the garden, bending over picking flowers. I spoke to her, but she didn't look up. She was the Englishwoman who married that chap from Cairns. She made a little English garden, but it never suited her. Always wanted to go home; you know how the English are. Her man thought Papua was good enough for her, until she died. Then he shot himself."
"Do you ever see his ghost?" I asked.
"No. He's too deep in hell, I fancy, to get out."
They believed earnestly in the horseman who rode over the bluff. They believed that lights appeared in the deserted house from which another woman had run away with her baby.
We were riding along silently when our horses stopped, snorted and sat on their tails. At first I thought it was a fallen vine, then I saw it wiggle. I slid off and threw a handy stone at eight black feet of snake; which was a diplomatic blunder, for the thing made straight at me. Sefton broke its back with a whip. "Venomous?" I asked. I hate snakes. "Rather," Sefton said, and poked the poison sacks.
We rode on. Ghosts were real, snakes only a nuisance in a country where anything could happen.
The life could take its toll on Europeans:
If I were a sentimentalist I would think of Father Fastre with a smile and a tear. He was the giant priest who presided over Popolo Mission; he was all brawn, with the great red beard of a bush frontiersman. Sometimes a fey look would come into his eyes; for here is tremendous loneliness for a white man, which neither work nor prayer can quite banish from a mind that consorts with spirits and grows more morbid year by year. But Father Fastre had a sense of humor which saved him, I hope.
* * *
Father Fastre could smile at evil spells, but Papua was getting him. One night he stood in front of his mission and looked down over a veil of moonlight. He seemed to be talking to himself. "Ten years ago I could count ten thousand people along those hills. They are gone. Sometimes I hear their voices."
He told me that he often heard voices. The Bishop had better send him home for a while, I thought.

If by whiskey

 Recently, the Texas Speaker of the House appeared to be pretty drunk in the course of his duty.  It reminded me of the famous "Whiskey Speech" given by the Mississippi legislator, Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, in 1954.  Politics at it's finest.

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise. 

More Desert Solitaire

From an earlier chapter, here are some musings of Abbey's that I found striking. This is from "The Heat of Noon: Rock and Tree and Cloud," the quoted passage beginning on page 149 of the Ballantine Books edition's 22nd printing (original copyright 1968; first Ballantine 1971; 22nd 1990).
I would like to introduce here an entirely new argument in what has now become a stylized debate: the wilderness should be preserved for political reasons. We may need it someday not only as a refuge from excessive industrialism but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression. Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Yellowstone and the High Sierras may be required to function as bases for guerrilla warfare against tyranny  What reason have we Americans to think that our own society will necessarily escape the world-wide drift toward the totalitarian organization of men and institutions?

This may seem, at the moment, like a fantastic thesis. Yet history demonstrates that personal liberty is a rare and precious thing, that all societies trend toward the absolute until attack from without or collapse from within breaks up the social machine and makes freedom and innovation again possible. Technology adds a new dimension to the process by providing modern despots with instruments far more efficient than any available to their classical counterparts. Surely it is no accident that the most thorough of tyrannies appeared in Europe’s most thoroughly scientific and industrialized nation. If we allow our own country to become as densely populated, overdeveloped and technically unified as modern Germany we may face a similar fate.

The value of wilderness, on the other hand, as a base for resistance to centralized domination is demonstrated by recent history. In Budapest and Santo Domingo, for example, popular revolts were easily and quickly crushed because an urbanized environment gives the advantage to the power with the technological equipment. But in Cuba, Algeria and Vietnam the revolutionaries, operating in mountain, desert and jungle hinterlands with the active or tacit support of a thinly dispersed population, have been able to overcome or at least fight to a draw official establishment forces equipped with all of the terrible weapons of twentieth century militarism. Rural insurrections can then be suppressed only by bombing and burning villages and countryside so thoroughly that the mass of the population is forced to take refuge in the cities; there the people are then policed and if necessary starved into submission. The city, which should be the symbol and center of civilization, can also be made to function as a concentration camp. This is one of the significant discoveries of contemporary political science.

How does this theory apply to the present and future of the famous United States of North America? Suppose we were planning to impose a dictatorial regime upon the American people – the following preparations would be essential:

1. Concentrate the populace in megalopolitan masses so that they can be kept under close surveillance and where, in case of trouble, they can be bombed, burned, gassed or machine-gunned with a minimum of expense and waste.
2. Mechanize agriculture to the highest degree of refinement, thus forcing most of the scattered farm and ranching population into the cities. Such a policy is desirable because farmers, woodsmen, cowboys, Indians, fishermen and other relatively self-sufficient types are difficult to manage unless displaced from their natural environment.
3. Restrict the possession of firearms to the police and the regular military organizations.
4. Encourage or at least fail to discourage population growth. Large masses of people are more easily manipulated and dominated than scattered individuals.
5. Continue military conscription. Nothing excels military training for creating in young men an attitude of prompt, cheerful obedience to officially constituted authority.
6. Divert attention from deep conflicts within the society by engaging in foreign wars; make support of these wars a test of loyalty, thereby exposing and isolating potential opposition to the new order.
7. Overlay the nation with a finely reticulated network of communications, airlines and interstate autobahns.
8. Raze the wilderness. Dam the rivers, flood the canyons, drain the swamps, log the forests, strip-mine the hills, bulldoze the mountains, irrigate the deserts and improve the national parks into national parking lots.

Idle speculations, feeble and hopeless protest. It was all foreseen nearly half a century ago by the most cold-eyed and clear-eyed of our national poets, on California’s shore, at the end of the open road. Shine, perishing republic.

Obviously military conscription, a major issue in 1968, is now a relic that would be difficult to re-introduce to American society (although, given that 77% of the American youth are unfit for duty due to reasons of health, criminal records, failed education, or drugs, the government may entertain the idea if they ever get into a serious conflict e.g. over Taiwan). Likewise the continuing foreign wars have involved too few a number of Americans to distract us from our deep conflicts, which the government has chosen to fan instead. Only perhaps one or two percent of us went to Iraq; far more than that have been exposed to 'anti-racist' education designed to encourage such identities and grievances. 

Point one, though, is the active policy of much of the ruling faction of the Democratic party; as is point 2; as is point 3. Point seven is a matter of keen bipartisan agreement, one of the few things they don't fight about. Point eight has vocal opponents among Democrats, although they mostly win only symbolic victories; and the Republican party seems strongly in favor of it (albeit in the name of "energy" and "progress" and "wealth generation," rather than "razing the wilderness").

I think it's an interesting argument, and worth discussion. If you agree, feel free to join me in discussing it. 

Down the River

 "Down the River" is the longest chapter in Edward Abbey's famous semi-autobiographical, philosophical treatment of the desert, Desert Solitaire. Abbey remains a divisive figure, even within the minds of commentators on his work. Generally people admire his poetic and philosophical approach to the wilderness, and his ability to appreciate its wonders. People generally dislike his disagreeable temperament, his relationships with his five wives, and his inconsistent virtues when dealing with the wild -- killing wild animals, for example, not only for food or out of necessity but apparently for pleasure. 

Ideally philosophers demonstrate their virtues in life and not only in thought, but frankly that is more of a beloved rarity than a normal fact. (The Stoics had a particularly good run, I notice.) Abbey died well, and served honorably in the military right at the end of and just after the Second World War. His writing is often insightful and valuable. Each of those things is not nothing, and together they are more than most people manage.

"Down the River" is a striking piece because it captures the last days of a beautiful river that was about to be destroyed by the flooding attendant to the construction of a dam. Those of us who have grown up around the Appalachians, where the TVA operated on one side and Duke Power on the other, have sympathy for what was lost in the destruction associated with such things. Here it was homes, farms, communities, as well as waterfalls and blessed rivers; there no one lived, not since the ancient natives abandoned the valley for reasons unknown, but the treasures he describes are irreplaceable: cathedral-like caves in the canyons, petroglyphs and homes of the Anasazi (as he calls them, following the Navajo, but N.B. the current objection of some of their descendants mentioned at the link), a land of springs and birds and catfish that grilled up beautifully with the bacon grease they wisely reserved on their trip.

As a travelogue it is a very nice piece; I spent the week making in sequence the breakfasts he describes them cooking over campfires by the river. Anyone who has spent time on a raft on a river will find that it brings back the best of those memories. The philosophical turns he takes are interesting, with en passant mentions of Socrates and Aristotle; so too is his musing on what he never describes as his longing for an absent but somehow ever-present God, against whom Abbey bears clear anger for being so evident but inaccessible. He keeps trying to talk himself out of God, but keeps returning to him.

In the end his companion and himself reach the place where government authority commands that they leave the river, leave it forever. There will be and can be no return, no second chance to find the cavern they missed, no second visit to the wonders. All the places seen are condemned to be destroyed. We cannot believe this is possible, he tells the reader; we know it but cannot entertain it. To do so would be to give ourselves over to "helpless rage, helpless outrage."

It's all gone now. 

Pistol Brace Injunction

The ATF's attempt to ban pistol braces by regulatory fiat has been temporarily barred by injunction, following a Firearms Policy Coalition lawsuit victory.

This whole matter is an outgrowth of a little bit of insanity in Federal law. The issue is that the infamous National Firearms Act of 1934 has some vagueness in one of its definitions. Unlike some later gun control laws, it does not ban anything; all that it does is require registration and extra taxes for certain kinds of firearms. Which kinds? Well, machine guns and explosive devices (which, uh, aren't really firearms), "any other weapon" (which somehow only applies to firearms of unusual designs, like cane guns or umbrella guns), suppressors (which fire nothing at all), and two species of ordinary long guns: short-barreled rifles, and short-barreled shotguns. 

It's the rifles that are at issue here. Apparently the Prohibition-era G-men were willing to face the danger of handguns, although bullet proof vests were nowhere near as good back then, but they were unmanned by the threat of facing a short long gun. So, a "rifle" with a barrel under 16 inches (or an overall length sub-26 inches) was regulated by the act; but a "pistol" with a barrel under 16 inches (&c.) is not. 

What's the difference between a rifle and a pistol? Um....

It's not the ammunition; long before 1934 it was common for pistols and rifles (or carbines, which are rifles that have short barrels in order to ease handling) to share ammunition. Especially in the Old West the Colt Single Action Army was often rechambered for .44-40 instead of .45 Colt so that it could share ammunition with the Winchester 73. (This was so popular it soon became a factory offering.) Today it is quite common for carbines to be chambered in .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum or .45 Colt; it's not uncommon for AR-pattern pistols/rifles to be chambered in 9mm or .45 ACP.

Is it then a question of whether it is meant to be fired with one hand or two? Or is it just a question of whether it was meant to be a pistol or a rifle in general? For both questions: meant by whom? If the owner/user, the question is then just one of intent, and that has to be proven at trial; you couldn't presumptively regulate anything. Besides, a lot of pistol instructors teach two-handed pistol use as the most accurate and preferred style. 

If the intent is the manufacturer's, well, then it's just up to Joe's Gun Smithy to determine if they intended the thing to be a pistol or a rifle. If they say it's a pistol, it is. If they say it's a rifle, it is. It doesn't matter how the user used it; users often don't obey the manufacturer's instructions. 

Until recently, the courts have decided to go with the notion that the manufacturer's intent was what decided the question. The ATF decided to substitute their own judgment by simply writing a rule to the effect that manufacturer-designed "pistols" that had a stabilizing brace were to be considered rifles instead (and thus subject to the NFA).

Generally a sufficiently vague law is unconstitutional, at least in the vague aspects. This one looks like judicial review might not go its way.

"State of Emergency"

Our rascal of a governor has declared a mock "state of emergency" over... voucher programs for schools being considered by the legislature. "When kids leave public school for private schools, the public schools lose hundreds of millions of dollars.... This drops an atomic bomb on public education." 

About time, too. 

Wildly he goes on to describe the legislature's design as including "politicians policing our children's curriculum," as if that wasn't exactly what happens in public schools. He's also exercised about "book bans," which I certainly oppose, but which if anything are at least as much an interest of Democrats as Republicans these days. They only differ as to which books to ban, not whether to ban them (and also in that by "ban" Republicans usually mean 'not have them purchased by public resources like schools and public libraries,' whereas Democrats typically mean, 'prevent them from ever being published, or if already published revise them after the fact to comply with ideology, or pull them from publication').

This is actually a good reason to end public education in favor of a vouchers-for-all program: you can be sure that the books you want your children to be taught are in fact being taught, even if you are locally a minority politically. Moving to a 'better' public school district isn't always an option, given how housing prices have tended to track such things. Vouchers are a road out for the poor as well as for political minorities (and, potentially, other sorts of minority groups as well). 

Plus, the public schools are mostly terrible. I've been so disappointed with the education received by my younger relatives. I think they basically now need the equivalent of an Associates' degree in remedial classes to begin baccalaureate-level studies. Competition would be a real improvement over the inescapable sewer that the public sector teachers have imposed upon much of working-class and poorer America. However much their self-image is one of lifting people out of poverty through education, the quality of these teachers' work is often the very thing that traps the poor in poverty.

Mental gymnastics

Grim reports some difficulty coloring between the lines of hazy community guidelines, so I thought I should post this primer, starting with a PJ Media piece on the white supremacy of advocating early rising.

Now, some of you might be thinking you'd hesitate to stereotype persons of nonpallor as tending to sleep late or otherwise lacking drive and ambition. You may have been brought up to think that that would be a little racist, and if you had to report research showing a correlation between skin color and alarm clocks, you'd tread very carefully, in the manner of Charles Murray, not that it would do you any more good than it's done him, you racist.

Here's the trick. You may freely engage in this kind of offensive stereotype as long as the purpose is to speak truth to the Colonizing Patriarchy, and only in the context of arguing that any preference for early rising, drive, or ambition is itself a sin, that is to say, a violation of Community GuidelinesTM. Admiring hard work "suggests that Asian Americans are doing well and that if other groups would only work harder, have stronger family bonds and get over their histories of oppression, they too would succeed." Why this suggestion is off limits is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, and left as an exercise for the reader--but don't work too hard on it.

I'm prepared to supply you with a hint, however:
The pro-Asian "model minority" myth pits people of color against one another and creates a hierarchy in which Asian people are often represented at the top. By putting people of color in competition with one another, the myth distracts us from striving together toward liberation for all.
You see the deft approach: obviously you must put people in competition with one another on the basis of their skin color, but you must not do so when it comes to groups of different non-white colors, because that would be divisive. We are to work together toward liberation for all, as long as you understand what we mean by "all," again intuitively obvious, no need to prioritize logic over Community GuidelineTM-approved modes of being.

Also, when I say "work," I certainly don't mean to imply that working harder consistently yields valuable results, you colonizer. To be safe, eliminate the word "work" from your cognitive vocabulary. We are to cooperate in a warmly relaxed communitarian sense towards shared goals that fall like the gentle rain from heaven, without hierarchies of goals, unless used to place the wrong goals at the bottom of the heap.

Alternatively, Asians don't actually have color, in common with some Hispanics. We're still working on that orthodoxy and will get back to you when we think you need to know.


If you aren’t familiar with the Anarchyball cartoon, the particular type of anarchism they endorse (symbolized by the black and yellow) is genuinely free market capitalism. 

[UPDATE: This post was flagged as violating the content policy, though the reason was unspecified. I do  not believe that it does. It is cartoon political commentary. It does not encourage violence, it points out the government's role in violence. The only firearm represented is being used by a cartoon representing the US government (which is why it is painted like an American flag), and the government would possess those firearms under any circumstances. The cartoon is attributed to its creator.]

[Further: If you're going to persist in removing content for 'violating the community standards,' you need to start explaining exactly what is wrong with the content. I have been using Blogger since 2003, meaning that this blog is now over twenty years old, and for two decades had no trouble with Blogger's content policies; there has clearly been a change on your side in terms of what those policies mean, and you need to explain how you are now interpreting the rules if you want people to adhere to your new interpretation of the rules.]

The Weirdness of the Drag Fight

All over the country, there are suddenly protests on the right against Drag Queen shows. Some of these have risen to the level of state legislation. Here in NC, there was a bill sponsored by my state representative that would have defined drag shows as specifically adult entertainment, with penalties up to felony punishment if you repeatedly violated it. This bill did not survive 'crossover day,' so it's dead for this session; but in Florida, they appear to have enacted a similar law (though not one that, as reported, institutes the death penalty for drag shows).

Now the CBS news story about this states that the Florida law is part of a set of "anti-transgender" bills that were recently signed into law, and that is a weird thing to say. Drag shows are no more connected to transgender issues than minstrel shows are to black issues. Indeed, as I have discovered when reading up on this to try to understand the controversy, those two sorts of entertainment bear a number of similarities: they both came to be about the same time, both initially involved American black culture (the first one on record was a formerly enslaved performer in Washington, D.C.), and both involve someone who is not X impersonating X in a highly exaggerated way for the entertainment value of that. Minstrel shows and blackface are now regarded as entirely inappropriate and racist (which they are), but drag shows -- which involve usually-but-not-always-gay men impersonating women -- are widely accepted and enjoyed in major cities to this day.

What they are not is in any way transgender. A drag performer is no more claiming to "really" be female than a performer in a minstrel show is trying to present himself as actually black. I wonder if the accidental linkage -- a biological male dressing as a woman -- is causing confusion on both sides, as neither Florida Republicans nor CBS seems clear on the distinction.  That might explain why we are suddenly having a nationwide fight over drag culture. 

I have myself never been to a drag show, so I am not positioned to comment on them with any depth, but they are a long-established part of Americana. They are a fringe activity that nobody has been very exercised about for decades at least. I remember there was a drag revue down in Savannah when I lived there, and I don't remember there ever being the slightest trouble about it; people I knew who went enjoyed themselves, and the rest of us just walked on past without stopping in. Like many other fringe parts of American culture, it has managed to exist without causing a major disturbance. Suddenly, everyone is talking about it.

It's not like we don't have a lot of actual problems in the country right now, from inflation and economics to a collapsing military to a corrupt government to an electoral system that has lost the faith of the people. It's weird that, among all of this, what people choose to get exercised about is drag shows.

More Censorship

Last night I saw a poster on a stack of unsold blue beer cartons offering $10,000 weekly giveaways, a rather obviously desperate marketing ploy. I posted a shot of it to comment on how bad things must be to justify such a move, but Google immediately deleted it as a violation of their community guidelines. They didn't explain exactly what the violation was; social commentary has generally been considered fair use, and there was certainly nothing illegal or provocative about the language. 

Weirdly, Google just won a SCOTUS suit maintaining their protections in cases of people using the platform for commentary. Apparently that didn't encourage them to stop the censorship; and they must have automated it, perhaps using their AI, because the takedown was nearly instantaneous. 


Thy name is Bud Light. 

[UPDATE: This post was flagged and determined to violate the Blogger Community Guidelines, but I can't see any way that it does. It's not a copyright violation, because (a) commentary on ads is squarely within "Fair Use," and (b) Bud Light has no reason to object to me re-broadcasting their message that they're prepared to pay $10,000 a week. This post certainly is not obscene, nor does it advocate anything illegal or dangerous, nor is it abusive; it's merely commentary on the fix that Bud Light has gotten itself into, and the extraordinary steps that they are prepared to take to try to get out of it. Nor is anyone who reads this blog going to buy any Bud Light as a consequence of the post, if drinking the beer is the supposed harm the post incurred, and not because of the controversy but because they always had better taste.]