05 July, 2012

MOVED...

After suffering through formatting issues and other frustrations for months, I have picked up my brain spillings and moved on over to Wordpress.


If interested, you can find me at www.dangerous-thought.net.


On the way you may bump into a warning that the link redirects to a Wordpress page, but have no fear.  It is merely one small part of my plot to undermine civilization and rule the world.

27 June, 2012

Why the Bureaucrats Need You Dead!


The Sky Isn't Falling!

And regulators are worried.

By JAMES TARANTO



A corollary of the old man-bites-dog adage is that it's news when a plane crashes, but not when a plane lands safely. A recent Bloomberg dispatch challenges that assumption. The lead sentence: "More than a decade has passed since the last major-airline accident on U.S. soil."

Come to think of it, that is news of a sort, and precisely because safe flights usually aren't news. It's been so long since we thought about accidental plane crashes that it didn't occur to us until now that the last major one was in November 2001. (It was an American Airlines flight to the Dominican Republic, which crashed shortly after takeoff from New York. At first everyone thought it was terrorism.)
 
Now you might think that this is a pure good-news story, like if the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare in its entirety tomorrow. But no. It turns out that the lack of plane crashes is bad for airline safety. Here's the second sentence: "That's great news for aviation companies and their passengers--and a complication for rule makers trying to improve flight safety."

The second paragraph explains: "The benefits of aviation rules are calculated primarily on how many deaths they may prevent, so the safest decade in modern airline history is making it harder to justify the cost of new requirements."

Then comes one of the most wonderful quotes we've ever encountered, from William Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation: "If anyone wants to advance safety through regulation, it can't be done without further loss of life."








11 June, 2012

Be Libertarian With Me...

My Breakfast, and Lunch, With Andre...


My weekend was spent as a delegate to the 2012 Texas State Libertarian Convention as well as acting as a host to the gentleman who would be, if voters were bright and attentive and the media were truly not biased, the next president of our nation.
The Convention had its contentious moments. Hell, we are Libertarians.  It also offered hope for unity and renewed energy going forward, so I will avoid an unnecessary autopsy of said conflicts and simply report that our party is strong and poised to be a factor in many state and local contests this election cycle.
Beyond the politics, and the pistol-sucking minutia (hat-tip to friend William Sparkman) of rules and platform debates, I would instead point to what for me were the three highlights of the weekend:
  • The luncheon speaker on Saturday was Tom Woods, who offered a talk in two parts; 1) What Libertarians should be saying to non-libertarians to win them over, and 2) What Libertarians should be saying to each other.  Dr. Woods is the author of many books on history and economics, and a powerful and persuasive speaker who offered up more gems of wisdom per minute than anyone whose name is not Christopher Hitchens I have ever heard.  Google him and try to read a few of his books.  It will be time well-spent.
  • Perhaps an unanticipated highlight was my favorite moment of the weekend.  As mentioned above, I served as host to Governor Gary Johnson, former two-term governor of NM, the Libertarian candidate for president in 2012. On Saturday morning we learned Andre Marrou, who was the 1992 LP candidate for the same position, would welcome the opportunity to meet with Governor Johnson.  The arrangements were made and on Sunday morning I had both the honor and pleasure to participate in a breakfast meeting of the two. That was not my favorite moment, however.  Mr. Marrou had not attended a Libertarian event since the year he ran for president, but was persuaded to stay for our Sunday luncheon where the governor was to be the keynote speaker.  Most in attendance had no idea what had happened to Mr. Marrou in the years following 1992, nor even where he lived, so the announcement that he was our special guest brought a standing ovation from the audience and a warm smile to Andre’s face.  I cannot say for sure, but I would not be surprised to see Mr. Marrou appear at a few more LP functions going forward, and that can only be a very good thing for all concerned.
  • The third thing that stood out was Governor Johnson’s speech at the aforementioned luncheon. It offered a strong and bold preview of his coming campaign against the Democratic president and Republican challenger.  I like the governor personally, and also strongly support his effort to slay the duopoly that has our nation in a clear and frightening downward spiral.  His Saturday talk seemed to me to rank with his emphatic debate speech to the delegates at the LP National Convention prior to being chosen as our nominee, and this video which seems to have gone viral on the internet and attracted the attention of many disenchanted Republicans.
I would be remiss if I failed to reiterate what I hinted at above. Wife Pat and I had the pleasure of hosting Governor Johnson Saturday and Sunday evenings, and I have served as his “escort” on visits to North Texas on this and a previous occasion.  He is a warm and modest gentleman in every sense of that word.  In my time I have had beers and conversations with Joe Biden (whom I still remember fondly), hosted Bob Barr in my home, and been a guest of President Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson at their Texas ranch. There is no political figure with whom I would rather spend time, nor for whom I would rather work for their election, than Gary Johnson.  I am pleased to consider him a friend, and recommend him highly to you.

06 June, 2012

I Will Try to be Polite, But...



Today I received what seems like the umpteenth appeal from Mitt Romney, or at least his campaign, for my "support", which is politicese for money.


Allow me to explain what it would mean for me to support Mr. Romney, who I am sure is a reasonably fine fellow in many regards. It would mean in essence that I believed that someone who believes that a here-there-to unmentioned angel was sent from god to visit and provide an updated revelation to a petty convicted felon in upstate New York, that not only was the Garden of Eden an historical fact and place, but that its location was somewhere in Missouri that no one has quite stumbled across just yet, that Native Americans were really the Lost Tribe(s?) of Israel, that Jesus found time (and a previously undisclosed form of transportation) during his short duration on earth to visit said Lost Folks, and that wearing a special kind of magic underwear could and would make you a better person, was fit to be president of the most powerful nation on earth.


Hell, I don't even believe that someone who believes all that, and much more I have not the time to mention, should even be permitted unsupervised home visits, much less allowed to ascend to such a high and prestigious office.


But here's the thing, even if I believed all of the above was sane and logical and defensible, I still could not and would not lift a finger nor spend a bad penny on Mr. Romney's behalf.  You see, I also believe marriage is a civil right whether a band of bronze-age, cattle-sacrificing nomads believed so or not.  I believe that no American should be summarily executed without a fair trial, nor detained without the ability to exercise their rights under habeas corpus.  I believe that taxation without representation applies every bit as much to our grandchildren as it did to our forefathers, and that it is unconscionable for us to leave them 50 to 100 trillions of dollars in debt simply because we cannot screw up the moral courage to bring federal government spending under control. I believe that for too long we have served as both the world's policeman and financier, and we now need to refocus our efforts and our treasure on our problems rather than on someones else's.  Finally, although I could go on like this for a very long time, I believe that we have destroyed too many lives and invested far too much of our resources fighting an unwinnable "War on Drugs".


So no Mr. Romney, or whoever is sending me these mailings, you can save yourself any and all additional printing and postage, because I believe on one hand you are batshit crazy, and on the other you are merely more of the same.  Believe me when I say I have my fill of both.

01 June, 2012

What Carnivores and Prey Animals Can Teach Each Other



A "Science and Religion" blog is running a "discussion" under the following headline:
What Believers and Atheists Can Teach Each Other

Taking their lead, I just might do a bit and title it "What Carnivores and Prey Animals Can Teach Each Other".  Seriously!

The only thing a religious person can teach me is how they have finally decided to keep their cosmic fantasies to themselves, which means from this moment forward refraining from attempts to impose their peculiar world views on others in general, and me in particular, whether through government mandates, undermining of the educational process, especially as it pertains to Science, and/or one or another form of ecclesiastical imperialism.

I am, by the way, most ready to return the favor. As soon as the religious get out of my face, I swear to stop bitching about them being in my face.  It only seems fair.

30 May, 2012

Hari-ed?

Talk about surreal.


I did some shopping at my local Market Street grocery this afternoon.  I was checking out, preparing to pay with my debit card, when the cashier began ringing a bell and dancing up and down, soon to be followed by the bag girl.


Had I been in Britain I would have been nonplussed, here I settled for slackjawed.  Was Market Street now hiring Hari Krishnas?  Was I an unwitting participant in a cosmic joke?


Fortunately, nothing so bizarre. Shortly the cashier paused her bell ringing to inform me I had won free groceries.  Sure enough, the register screen was displaying $0.00 where seconds before it had read $208 and change. I shop there all the time, and had no idea they even did such a thing.


And 208 bucks beats a gaggle of Krishnas any day.

Worth Considering...


For all my Progressive/Liberal friends who, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, still subscribe to the mantra that more government regulation and/or involvement in the banks, or healthcare, or whatever, will make those things safer, cheaper, fairer and so on, I offer up some info on one example where the U.S. did actually deregulate an industry:


In 1978, Congress deregulated the airline industry.  Between 1950 and 1978, the Civil Aeronautics Board had received 79 applications for startup interstate airlines, and rejected every one of them, effectively protecting the business and profits of a handful of legacy carriers.


Since 1978 however:

  • Airline fares have fallen eighteen percent in real dollar terms,
  • Airline safety has improved year after year and air travel is now safer than it has ever been,
  • Air travel has been opened up to the vast majority of Americans.  Prior to 1978, fewer than 20% of Americans had ever flown on a commercial airliner, today it is estimated that 85% have done so, and
  • Competition has increased dramatically, with airlines such as Southwest, Jet Blue, Horizon, and Virgin America (to name just a few) forcing what is left of the legacy carriers to reorganize, retool, and rethink their approach to the business.
Faced with these results, and the fact that most large industries are still heavily regulated, over-regulated actually, how can anyone argue that federal regulation or control is a good thing, or that the public interest would not be better served with far less regulation as opposed to more?

Ernie Hancock has famously stated that "There are only two kinds of people in the world, those who want to be left alone and those that won't let them".  I submit that the forces of regulation are manned entirely by "those who won't let them", and that they are what stands between Americans and cheaper, more accessible healthcare, lower bank fees, better energy sources, and on and on.  The cost to progress, and fairness, is enormous.

21 May, 2012

Penn "Smokes" the President

Penn Jillette takes President Obama to task for his cavalier attitude about, and harsh treatment of,
non-violent drug offenders.


.

15 May, 2012

Real Money...

A Libertarian friend, Jeffrey Jones, sent me the following info. It portrays as well as anything I have seen the awful impact out of control government spending and a money-printing Federal Reserve have had on our real wages and inflation. Imagine how much better off we'd be today if we were paid in gold, even without receiving a raise over the past 50 years.  


Average wages in 1959: $5,016 - or 143 oz. of Gold


Average wages in 1977: $15,000 - or 120 oz of Gold


Average wages in 1999: $28,970 - or 104 oz of Gold


Average wages in 2008: $41,335 - 53 oz of Gold


And they say Ron Paul is nuts!

10 May, 2012

Epicurus, Lucretius, and Thomas Jefferson



Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

Attributed to Epicurus, circa 300 BCE

In the strictest sense, Epicurus probably was not an Atheist.  He at least claimed to believe in the gods of ancient Greece, but at the same time curiously asserted that they were not at all concerned with humankind.  Being gods, what need might they have of us, or concern as to how we lived?

Other contributions of Epicurus include the promotion and further explanation of the atomist hypotheses generally attributed to Democritus, an early stab at a hypothesis of evolution, and the supposition that the earth was not the center of the “world”, nor for that matter was the sun.  Rather, he wrote, the stars were all suns like ours, and as such they would be surrounded by planets like our earth which would be inhabited by “other races”.  Further, he asserted, death was not to be feared – for we were dead before we were born.  Death was simply the atoms which composed our body rearranging themselves once again.  (And all this 300 years before a questionable and gory series of events in Palestine set human progress back at least a thousand years.

He may be best known however for his philosophy that living a life of pleasure was the highest ideal to which we can aspire.  By “pleasure” Epicurus was not referring to copious amounts of rich food, great wine, or sex, but rather to the simpler pleasures of learning, discourse, moderation, and living without fear.

Only three letters and a few small scraps of his writing is all we have left of Epicurus; all, except for the epic poem On the Nature of Things by the Roman writer and philosopher Lucretius.  The Roman’s work itself was nearly lost to us, only to be retrieved in the 15th century by Poggio Bracciolini, a Papal secretary.  Many historians credit the rediscovery of Lucretius’ work with providing an impetus for:  first the Renaissance, and later the Enlightenment.  We know that many Enlightenment figures such as Montaigne, Locke, and Diderot owned copies of, and made frequent reference to, On the Nature of Things.

And here’s the thing:  Thomas Jefferson owned at least five copies of the multi-volume poem, and referred to it frequently.  You certainly recall his phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”, the last phrase of which is pure Epicurus.

In the past, upon reading Jefferson’s phrase “Nature and Nature’s God…”, I have always assumed he was making a reference to the Deist god, a deity which after the act of creation went off to play Bridge, or perhaps badminton or something, with the other gods and was thus unconcerned with mere mortals or anything else in nature.  (Sorry Christian revisionists, T.J. was not one of you.) What if, however, Jefferson was instead referring to Einstein’s god; nature and the laws of nature themselves?  Einstein was familiar with Lucretius and thus Epicurean thought, just as was Jefferson.  I recently found what could be considered at least strong circumstantial evidence:

In a letter to William Short, dated October 31, 1819, Jefferson answered in response to an inquiry as to his guiding philosophy, “I am an Epicurean.”  Further, “I consider the genuine (not imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy…” In his diary, John Quincy Adams attributed a similar response to Jefferson during an 1807 dinner conversation.  At the very least we can rule out Christianity as being at the core of the author of the Declaration’s moral core.

Proof?  Perhaps not.  Stronger evidence however than the Cult of Torture and Human Sacrifice can offer, and that is a start.