A Well-Earned Ale

Today I got up and lit my smoker before my first meeting. Over the course of the day, in addition to work, I smoked two whole Boston Butts and a beef Chuck roast. I also pressure washed the motorcycles and my deck, then waxed the bike, then made dinner out of some of the smoked meats. Then I broke the rest down and stowed it — three gallons of pulled pork alone.

Sierra Nevada has a brewery over by the airport, so we get their local stuff. I haven’t tried this one before. I’m pretty sure I have earned it, though, so I hope it’s good. 

'The Gun-Show Loophole'

Wyoming just had a major restoration of civil rights for non-violent felons. There remain problems. 
A restoration of rights for nonviolent felons in Wyoming took effect July 1 and includes the right to “use or knowingly possess” a firearm.

But it remains unclear for some whether that means nonviolent felons can buy firearms from licensed gun dealers. Having and using a gun is one thing, but legally being able to buy a gun, which still requires a federal background check, isn't as clear....

Dennis Mazet, who owns High Country Sporting Goods in Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily that he was also OK with selling firearms to nonviolent felons who meet all the same qualifications as anybody else legally eligible to buy them.

However, he also wondered if somebody with any sort of felony on their record could pass a federal background check. Dealers must refuse any sales to people who don’t pass.

“I would have no problem with it, but I don’t know if they could pass the federal background check,” he said. “That’s done through the FBI.”

The rest of the piece includes an interesting perspective from GOA, whose opinion is that the right to keep and bear arms was never barred to nonviolent felons under Wyoming law anyway. They opposed the section restoring the right to bear arms -- along with the rights to vote, hold office, and several others -- on the grounds that it gave the impression that the right had been 'restored' when it was never removed.

This is, of course, exactly what is meant when you hear people talk about 'closing the gun-show loophole.' Only gun dealers have to go through the FBI before they can sell you a gun; private citizens do not. You could buy a gun from me if I had one I wanted to sell you at a price we agreed upon, just as with any other piece of property I own that I wish to sell. The FBI has no part in our private business. Dealers at gun shows still have to run the FBI checks, but private citizens who happen to meet there and want to trade, buy, or sell their private property can do so lawfully. These restored Wyoming citizens therefore have an option to lawfully purchase the arms they may lawfully carry. 

That's what the advocates of control would like to change. Then it wouldn't matter what your state legislature said, as long as they could trust the Federal agents at the FBI to say "no."

So Close

My mother sent me this photo today. If I’d been there another week, alas. 

A Funny Skit


DC To Pay Millions for 2A Violations

This is a refreshing story.

A Pricey Renovation in W. Asheville

It’s a sign of the changing city that an auto shop should be renovated into a feminist bookstore, but what a price tag: a million dollars! 

Believe me, I love a good bookstore. How many of them ever clear a million dollars, though? Even the big corporations who used to be in that game have mostly folded since Amazon. A ‘queer, feminist, anarchist’ bookstore is intentionally targeted at fringe portions of society even in Asheville. Admittedly the fringe is somewhat larger there than elsewhere; but the population is smaller than major markets like Atlanta or Charlotte, which evens things out a bit. 

Somebody ponied up the money in the form of a loan from an NGO, which might have generous terms if the NGO supports their social goals. Still, the business case for this has to be slim, doesn’t it?

Tennessee Holds the Line

The governor of Tennessee decided that he wanted gun control laws, and when the legislature refused to pass any he called them back for a special session. Of course such a session promised the usual theatrics from those politicians aligned with disarming the public, and the promised theater occurred

Nevertheless, the special session of the Tennessee General Assembly has now adjourned sine die with no new gun control laws passed. There was pushing and shoving on the floor as a closing act to the theatrics, but no laws restricting the rights of the people of Tennessee.

The Athenian Way

Last week the NYT published an opinion piece suggesting what the author described as a better way for American democracy: dispensing with elections in favor of the distribution of offices by lottery. Students of history will know that this was in fact tried during the Athenian Democracy.

There are two broad things to be said here. The first is that, like all suggested reforms, this is bootless because the system is too corrupt at this stage to be reformed. There will be no elimination of mass-scale deficit spending until the dollar collapses because the political class is too addicted to the power of spending money. Nor will the size of government will be reduced, certainly not at the scale that would be required to make it affordable. The bureaucracy will not return its stolen legislative function to Congress, and Congress doesn't want it back in any event. The national debt will not be reined in, but will eventually destroy the dollar at least and the nation most likely. There will be no term limits because Congress itself would have to vote on them, and so too here. They will not replace the system they've already learned how to control in a manner that reliably lends them power. We can only wait patiently for the collapse that is coming, and we can afford to be patient because the course they are determined upon leads there inevitably. 

That first thing said, the second thing is that ideas about how to rebuild once the collapse occurs are wisely considered. We shall have to do so eventually, and probably sooner than later. So what about this one? 

Plato was hotly against it, to start. He felt that this lottery idea took the notion of equality much too far; or, more precisely, that it arose from the error of deciding that equality meant that everyone was equally good rather than that everyone should have the same test of their goodness applied to them. On the former view, the lottery seems sensible since anyone is as good as anyone else, and therefore it hardly matters who is sheriff or mayor or President; on the latter, it's obvious that you want to apply the test and then select only the best candidate. 

The old saying, that "equality makes friendship," is happy and also true; but there is obscurity and confusion as to what sort of equality is meant. For there are two equalities which are called by the same name, but are in reality in many ways almost the opposite of one another; one of them may be introduced without difficulty, by any state or any legislator in the distribution of honours: this is the rule of measure, weight, and number, which regulates and apportions them. But there is another equality, of a better and higher kind, which is not so easily recognized. This is the judgment of Zeus; among men it avails but little; that little, however, is the source of the greatest good to individuals and states. For it gives to the greater more, and to the inferior less and in proportion to the nature of each; and, above all, greater honour always to the greater virtue, and to the less less; and to either in proportion to their respective measure of virtue and education. And this is justice, and is ever the true principle of states, at which we ought to aim, and according to this rule order the new city which is now being founded, and any other city which may be hereafter founded. To this the legislator should look-not to the interests of tyrants one or more, or to the power of the people, but to justice always; which, as I was saying, the distribution of natural equality among unequals in each case. 
But there are times at which every state is compelled to use the words, "just," "equal," in a secondary sense, in the hope of escaping in some degree from factions. For equity and indulgence are infractions of the perfect and strict rule of justice. And this is the reason why we are obliged to use the equality of the lot, in order to avoid the discontent of the people; and so we invoke God and fortune in our prayers, and beg that they themselves will direct the lot with a view to supreme justice. And therefore, although we are compelled to use both equalities, we should use that into which the element of chance enters as seldom as possible. (Lawx VI 757b-d)

Plato thinks that the need to appease the jealousy of the ordinary, the poor, the 'democrats,' will require at least some offices to be distributed by lot; and he advises you to pray, every time it is necessary to do so, in the hope that the gods will find a good candidate rather than a bad one. 

At our present moment, one might argue (thinking of WF Buckley's dictum, perhaps) that we could hardly do worse. Indeed, how much worse could the lottery do than to assign powers to the senile, to crackheads, to those so aged or infirm as to be incapable of effectively wielding office? To the corrupt, the wicked, etc? I could easily provide links to exemplars of each of those charges, but each of you can readily call to mind examples of them also. 

Since we cannot reform things in the present moment, however, it is sensible to take Plato's objection on board in anticipation of the rebuilding to come. We do need a system for identifying those with the right virtues for any offices that we decide are necessary. 

That leads to another question: what offices are those, really? I am increasingly of the view that there should be none, or almost none; and those that do exist should be filled voluntarily and without pay, thus having neither power nor money to entice the corrupt to enter into the business. Yet it is worth pausing, first, to list what functions we really want a government to perform -- and, then, whether or not those functions might be performed as well or better by a private agency. Presumably we will still want roads, for example; but here in Western North Carolina roads are built by private contractors, and the only role the government plays is a fundraising one (well, and regrettably also a planning one: that would be far more wisely outsourced to private engineers than the corrupt officials who end up in charge of it). 

Presumably there needs to be someone to fight fires, but volunteers do that well in most of the country already; again, the government's primary role is in funding the volunteer effort. I think policing could be done at least as well by a volunteer group, perhaps an elected (and unpaid) sheriff backed as necessary by a posse drawn from the trusted members of the community. Perhaps we could do without prisons, even, if we resumed hangings and beatings of the criminal; I suspect that would be more effective at reducing predatory crimes, as well. Juries are in fact already drawn by lottery, more or less; perhaps judges could be, at least from a pool of people admitted as qualified to serve as a judge. 

What else? Food safety? We already rely on private ratings (even free ones, like Yelp) to make many purchasing decisions. If someone wanted to rate food or drug safety and developed a reputation for reliable ratings and honest work, would they not enjoy more public trust than the CDC or FDA? 

It might seem as if there might be a need for concentrated power to resist concentrated power: perhaps only a government could effectively restrain a powerful corporation. Yet we have seen, in Afghanistan as elsewhere, that distributed power is often most effective at resisting concentrated power. In spite of the President's favored suggestion that you would need an F-15 rather than an AR-15 to resist the US government, in fact the opposite is true. F-15s require easily broken supply chains and easily-killed experts to be effective; what worked was a vast number of determined men, widely distributed, with rifles. 

It is worth thinking about all of this. What do you think?

"30% Chance of Rain"

In fairness, that was the Weather Channel. The radar app on my phone said 90%. I had a pretty good feeling which one was going to prove to be correct.

All the same, I got a lot wetter today riding the motorcycle than I'd hoped.