Friday, December 28, 2012

...and what may come next

"The village had its one poor street, with its poor brewery, poor tannery, poor tavern, poor stable-yard for relays of post-horses, poor fountain, all usual poor appointments. It had its poor people too. All its people were very poor, and many of them were sitting at their doors, shredding spare onions and the like for supper, while many were at the fountain, washing leaves, and grasses, and any such small yieldings of the earth that could be eaten. Expressive sips of what made them poor, were not wanting: the tax for the state, the tax for the church, the tax for the lord, tax local and tax general, were to be paid here and to be paid there, according to solemn inscription in the little village, until the wonder was, that there was any village left unswallowed."

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, p. 87 (tip o'the tricorne:


Saturday, November 3, 2012

It even sounds like a man's team

This brief post is an excuse to post the helmet I designed for the Detroit Dukes, my team in the Playmaker Football online league known as the United Football League. The less said about my performance as a coach the better, though I have managed to put together a pretty talented roster, particularly on defense (star players: DEs John Strickland and Barry Burton, LB DaVondrious Green, and CB Marzelle House) and on the offensive line.

I picture our uniforms being like the Detroit Lions of the 1960s and 1970s, no black trim, just Honolulu blue and silver. The Duke himself there I adapted from the old Duke Beer (Duquesne Brewing Co.) logo.

Done for the heck of it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Saw a reference to the passing of Arlen Specter (the reference is not in the linked article; I saw it elsewhere) that mentioned Specter helped "bork" Robert Bork.

Maybe, but I think Judge Inkblot borked himself, for anyone who was paying attention. The Ninth isn't that hard to understand, unless one is not quite bright or is planning mischief against the liberties of the individual. In either case, one ought to be disqualified from the Court (oh, if only).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Had a happy Independence Day...

...not to mention a pretty thoroughly 21st Century one. :)

A good friend and colleague held a luncheon at a vegetarian Indian (southern Indian, specifically) café. The meal was a buffet, and my lovely bride and I tried a little of durn near everything on offer. I liked it all, and even the kids didn't do badly (I think they liked the masala dosa best).

After lunch, one of my other colleagues took us to the Indian market next door to the restaurant, where I got a seven-ounce bag of coriander for $1.99 (I like McCormick, but maaaan that's a good price), plus a couple of different curry mixes to try some things with for another $4.

After that, we went home, changed into shorts, and went to a traditional cookout at another friend's house. Good bratwurst.

Thought experiment

Can the state rightly prohibit the adult owner of a dairy cow from milking the cow and consuming the raw milk?

Can the state rightly prohibit the adult owner of a dairy cow from consuming the raw milk produced by the cow, even when one hires another to care for and milk the cow?


(Edit to add: I have no interest in consuming raw milk myself -- pasteurized is just fine by me.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book of Wisdom

No, not me -- the real thing:

Again, one preparing for a voyage and about to traverse the wild waves
cries out to wood more unsound than the boat that bears him.

For the urge for profits devised this latter,
and Wisdom the artificer produced it.
(Wisdom 14:1-2, New American  Bible)

This passage builds on Wisdom 13, which describes a carpenter making an idol of "good-for-nothing" leftover wood and praying to it (verses 17-18):
But when he prays about his goods or marriage or children,
he is not ashamed to address the thing without a soul.
And for vigor he invokes the powerless;

and for life he entreats the dead;
and for aid he beseeches the wholly incompetent,
and about travel, something that cannot even walk.
That's brilliant in itself, but what really caught my attention was the "urge for profits" of Wisdom 14:2. The profit motive, informed by Wisdom (which cometh from the Lord, and guides the builder), serves to ensure that the boat is well made. Lacking Wisdom himself, the voyager prays to a dumb, inert hunk of lumber. There is a profound -- and humbling -- understanding of human nature here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Casey Chases a Knuckler

Tam posted a couple of stanzas of "Horatius" and linked to "Casey at the Bat" this morning. The latter always puts me in mind of the 1987 Bill James Baseball Abstract, which contained the following (reproduced in this volume):

Rough, tough, Charlie Hough
All eight innings had his stuff
Floating light from Charlie's cuff
Breaking late and just enough
To keep the scoreboard bare.

And yet, the Mudville fans did dare
To hope that foul would soon turn fair.
A single here, an error there,
Casey stood on deck and glared
At rough, tough, Charlie Hough.

Casey snorted, loud and gruff,
"I'll knock that busher on his duff.
Bring him on, I'll call his bluff;
How dare he aim that piece of fluff
At Casey's mighty stick?"

A home run now would tie it quick;
Charlie gave his wrist a flick;
Casey took a mighty lick.

The hearts of Mudville landed sick;
Just three pitches did the trick
From rough, tough, Charlie Hough.

For the whippersnappers who don't remember Charlie Hough, think Tim Wakefield. But Wakefield's tough to fit into the rhyme scheme.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A few brief thoughts on the Old Testament

I like to read over breakfast. I have a habit of reading the daily devotion from Oswald Chambers's My Utmost for His Highest (link goes to an online version, but I bought a hard copy years ago, noticing that my boss at the time -- a heck of a guy, and I owe him a phone call -- had a beat-up, extensively marked-up copy), followed in the last couple of months by selected chapters from the New Jerusalem Bible (my copy is small, and travels well).

(Believe me, the preceding is not intended to be an applause line. Srsly.)

So since late January, I've read all of Isaiah, the first six chapters of Jeremiah, and the first 16 chapters of Acts (always one of my favorite books of the New Testament, for some reason). I think it perilous to use the Bible in a fortune-telling way, or to draw too many parallels with current events or circumstances, but there are a couple of passages from my recent reading that resonate, if they don't exactly rhyme.

The first two I want to share are from Jeremiah:
This is because my people are stupid,
they do not know me,
they are slow-witted children,
they have no understanding,
they are clever enough in doing wrong,
but do not know how to do right.
(Jeremiah 4:22)
(I dare say we all know that guy, and further dare speculate that many of us have been that guy. I know I have.) Next:
And when you ask, "why has Y_hw_h my G_d done all this to us?" you will give them this answer, "As you abandon me to serve alien gods in your own country, so you must serve aliens in a country not your own.
(Jeremiah 5:19)
Finally, and perhaps the most rhymey: the following passage from Isaiah came to mind, in regard to the propensity of politicians (and maybe a lot of us) to kick the can down the road, when we can do it without breaking a toe:
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, 'Listen to the word of Yahweh Sabaoth, "The days are coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have amassed until now, will be carried off to Babylon. Not a thing will be left," Yahweh says. "Sons sprung from you, sons begotten by you, will be abducted to be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." '    Hezekiah said to Isaiah, 'This word of Yahweh that you announce is reassuring,' for he was thinking, 'There is going to be peace and security during my lifetime.'
(Isaiah 39:5-8)
Further affiant saith not.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quelle surprise

Sustainability and subsidy may be fairly close together in the dictionary, but out here where performance matters they're worlds apart.

To be fair, it is possible to argue that many businesses of many kinds are directly or indirectly subsidized by the state to a greater or lesser degree.

Why bring this up? The dictionary definition of "sustainable" is here. Of particular interest are the second and third entries:
2. pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse: sustainable agriculture. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to overfishing.

3. able to be maintained or kept going, as an action or process: a sustainable negotiation between the two countries.
 In business the first rule of sustainability is: "I have to be able to open the doors tomorrow." I know farming the government is a time-honored tradition and all, but at some point the field is no longer fertile, the turnips bled dry.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Better than the real thing

Earlier this afternoon...

The New York Giants carried a 35-14 lead into the fourth quarter against the visiting Cleveland Browns, on the strength of a couple of bombs from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham and a defense that stymied Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy, limiting the Browns to one score and no sustained drives (the Browns got one score on a pick-six on a flat pass).

But McCoy got the Browns up off the mat and led them on a 78-yard drive to make the score 35-21 with about seven minutes left; after a defensive stop, McCoy ended another drive by finding tight end Ben Watson in the end zone to make it 35-28. A bit later the Browns punted with just under four minutes to play, banking on getting one more stop on defense and one more opportunity on offense. They got it, taking over at their own 32 with 1:30 the clock and two time outs. McCoy moved the Browns to the 49 with 45 seconds left, prompting the Giants' coach to remark, "I've got butterflies in my stomach."

Three deep passes to Mohamed Massaquoi came up empty, though, and the Giants got out with the 35-28 win. The Giants' coach was my elder son (the Browns' coach was your correspondent), and the game was Strat-O-Matic Pro Football (2010 season player cards). I've been playing the game off and on since the 1974 season set, when I played with my dad and my brothers.

Football at its best can be a great game.

Six! Five! Four! Three! It's the De-on-to-lo-gy!

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [dreaming] I am not a Frankenstein. I'm a Fronkensteen. Don't give me that. I don't believe in fate. And I won't say it.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: All right, you win. You win. I give. I'll say it. I'll say it. I'll say it. DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME! DESTINY! DESTINY! NO ESCAPING THAT FOR ME!
Got the preceding from IMDB, quoting one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein (many thanks to my parents for turning me on to Mel Brooks in my youth).

Sometimes I find myself in much the same circumstance, having arrived at liberty via deontology. I recognize the consequentialist arguments for liberty, because I think liberty does produce better outcomes for all (including the poor). However...

...the end no more justifies the means in this case than it does in any other. Even if liberty were consequence-independent, I would be obliged to argue for liberty as the only possible moral arrangement.

Here's how it goes: We are, whether one believes (as I do) that one is made in the image of G_d, or at any rate inherent to one's nature as a human being, each of us endowed with the right to our own lives. More to the point, perhaps, there is no reliable or incontrovertible basis (none that I can find, at any rate) for saying, "This one is born to rule, that one born to serve."

I have said before and say here again that temporal authority claims are nothing more than warmed-over Filmer backed by naked force and more or less will to use it. One points to the talisman clenched in one's hand and says, "This thing in my hand, this (pedigree, patent of nobility, warrant/badge, electoral result) affirms that I am G_d's anointed, and you are morally bound to obey (again more to the point, one is bound to render up some portion of one's life, for my benefit, on pain of fine, imprisonment, door-kicking-in-at-3-am-and-dog-shooting-followed by imprisonment, or all of the above followed by death)."

If we each of us are truly endowed with the right to our own lives, then it follows that we are enjoined from aggressing against the life of anyone else. And if we each of us are enjoined from aggression, how do we delegate the right to use aggression to anyone, whatever talisman they might wave at us by way of justification?

The sole alternative to the non-aggression principle is, in the end: might makes right. It can't, in the end, be anything else.

What does this have to do with the title of the post? Because that way lies statelessness, and the unknown but potential consequences occasionally do weigh on me. I don't think statelessness necessarily leads inevitably to Somalia (and I certainly don't claim it will immanentize the Eschaton), but neither can I rule it out.

But neither can I start writing exceptions to non-aggression. All bases for exception are by definition arbitrary.