26 January 2018

Fantastic Fables: The Foolish Woman

A Married Woman, whose lover was about to reform by running away, procured a pistol and shot him dead.

"Why did you do that, Madam?" inquired a Policeman, sauntering by.

"Because," replied the Married Woman, "he was a wicked man, and had purchased a ticket to Chicago."

"My sister," said an adjacent Man of God, solemnly, "you cannot stop the wicked from going to Chicago by killing them."


Seems like a pretty effective way to keep the wicked from going to Chicago, not that this recommends the policy. The absurdity of this verse of Fantastic Fables reflects a cultural absurdity that is still with us, namely that many of us are not what we claim to be, but parodies of what we claim to be. Also still with us is the punishment of those who try to do right on principle at the cost of disturbing the status quo.

One of the things that our myths, traditions, and religion did for us was replace understanding with notions and instincts that allowed us to muddle through without having to think. Failing to recognize the purpose, and focusing on the irrationality and inconsistencies and things that are bogus begs people to throw the whole system out and replace it with what they fancy, and what they fancy is generally founded in even more dubious superstition and disbelief and irrationality that has not benefited from thousands of years of an evolution like process which culls some of the poorer notions and reinforces some of the more useful.

One of the more pernicious and anti-scientific notions to come along is categorical negation of entire systems of thought should any flaw or inconsistency or hypocrisy be found. Or, the wrong kind of flaw, inconsistency, or hypocrisy. A founding father had a slave? Chuck the whole damn system. And replace it with what? Even in a socialist or communist society, someone has to shovel the shit and someone has to grow the grains and someone has to fix the pipes. Who decides who does that? And who decides who the decider is?

25 January 2018

Devin Nunes and his memo

What to make of Devin Nunes' memo? There aren't many concrete details out there, but there are some interesting dynamics. Timing is one. Obviously, Nunes could have written the memo a while ago, but didn't until they passed the FISA Amendment Reauthorization with bipartisan support (65-34). Would have kicking up a dust made passing that harder? Certainly folks pick and choose their partisan issues pretty carefully, and it appears that the Fourth Amendment is the red-headed step child of the Bill of Rights in the eyes of most of Congress.

How is it that we don't know jack squat about it contents? Of course, we can guess and speculate, but not a dang detail has dropped. More than 200 Congresscritters have read it, yet no one has leaked a single nugget. Yes, it's classified and leaking classified information is a crime, but Congresscritters are not inured in the ways of handling classified information in the way that folks who work with it every day are. I am surprised that details haven't slipped out on background just by sloppiness. There are certainly broad shapes that could be plausibly leaked as speculation. That it seems likely that it will be declassified (perhaps with redaction), it's likely that the information is not a grave threat to national security, and shouldn't be classified in the first place.

If they're planning to release the memo, why don't they just do it? I've read they want to give the Whitehouse five days to veto the release, but the process could have been initiated last week. Why hasn't it been initiated and what are they waiting for?

Fantastic Fables: The Critics

While bathing, Antinous was seen by Minerva, who was so enamoured of his beauty that, all armed as she happened to be, she descended from Olympus to woo him; but, unluckily displaying her shield, with the head of Medusa on it, she had the unhappiness to see the beautiful mortal turn to stone from catching a glimpse of it. She straightway ascended to ask Jove to restore him; but before this could be done a Sculptor and a Critic passed that way and espied him.

"This is a very bad Apollo," said the Sculptor: "the chest is too narrow, and one arm is at least a half-inch shorter than the other. The attitude is unnatural, and I may say impossible. Ah! my friend, you should see my statue of Antinous."

"In my judgment, the figure," said the Critic, "is tolerably good, though rather Etrurian, but the expression of the face is decidedly Tuscan, and therefore false to nature. By the way, have you read my work on 'The Fallaciousness of the Aspectual in Art'?"


I wish I had a TARDIS so I could go back and snarf Ambrose Bierce and bring him to provide some commentary on the state of American affairs post-Trump. Probably would snag HL Mencken and Dorothy Parker, too. George Carlin, of course. Twain, Lord, couldn't forget Twain. I'm sure we can generate a long list of folks who could provide a bon mot or two.

What is simultaneously amazing and demoralizing is the inability of most of the mainstream media to be able to deal with Trump. There are multiple reasons and some that they bring upon themselves and others beyond their control, more or less. With the collapse of the papers classified advertising vehicles with some news thrown in, they've adopted the same sort of click-bait driven business models that drive blogs and the like, so anything that click worthy gets covered almost independently of it's newsworthiness. And President Trump is a cornucopia of click-bait fodder and outlets have to match their rivals tweet for tweet.

Where they go too far, however, is a certain type of reactionary anti-Trumpism where the reporting is distorted by mere animus toward the man. The animus is not the problem, its allowing the animus to cloud the reasoning and corrupt the reporting. This is not a partisan issue and it is not a pro or anti-Trump issue. It's a form of political correctness where facts are less important than virtue signaling. This is, of course, not limited to the MSM, but this is where you see its widest expression.

It seems unlikely that MSM will fix itself. They probably cannot, so, it will be left to us to expand our sources of information and be vigilant in trying to see the facts and reason clearly and objectively to arrive at our own conclusions.

21 January 2018

Fantastic Fables: The Broom of the Temple

The city of Gakwak being about to lose its character of capital of the province of Ukwuk, the Wampog issued a proclamation convening all the male residents in council in the Temple of Ul to devise means of defence. The first speaker thought the best policy would be to offer a fried jackass to the gods. The second suggested a public procession, headed by the Wampog himself, bearing the Holy Poker on a cushion of cloth-of-brass. Another thought that a scarlet mole should be buried alive in the public park and a suitable incantation chanted over the remains. The advice of the fourth was that the columns of the capitol be rubbed with oil of dog by a person having a moustache on the calf of his leg. When all the others had spoken an Aged Man rose and said:

“High and mighty Wampog and fellow-citizens, I have listened attentively to all the plans proposed. All seem wise, and I do not suffer myself to doubt that any one of them would be efficacious. Nevertheless, I cannot help thinking that if we would put an improved breed of polliwogs in our drinking water, construct shallower roadways, groom the street cows, offer the stranger within our gates a free choice between the poniard and the potion, and relinquish our private system of morals, the other measures of public safety would be needless.”

The Aged Man was about to speak further, but the meeting informally adjourned in order to sweep the floor of the temple—for the men of Gakwak are the tidiest housewives in all that province. The last speaker was the broom.


The phrase "government school" is overbroad in the way conservative and liberal, left and right, have become. It tells you something, but less than you might hope. However, I am beginning to wonder what fraction of school boards would consider Ambrose Bierce to be politically incorrect.

If the guys in The Broom and the Temple were put in charge of doping out immigration policy, we'd be more or less in the same place as we are today, except the congress critters would sweep the floors instead of tweeting about the dust now that the government has shut down.

20 January 2018

Poor enforcement of immigration law is unjust

Some say the United States is governed by the rule of law, and that is true to a degree. While many would say that we strive to provide equal protection for all people under a just set of laws, many would admit that is an unreached ideal. Indeed, for many that goal lies beyond their sight.

That laws must be respected and obeyed is a statement that begs qualification, for what is the moral justification for respecting and obeying unjust laws? Setting aside a the deeper discussion of "what is just", etc., let us for the moment take a "we know it when we see it" perspective for the sake of illustration.

For instance, let's say "thou shalt not kill" is a law, but it is qualified by "unless you are wearing a blue shirt and use a knife between 8 and 14 inches in length, then you can kill whoever you want". That doesn't require deep philosophical introspection to fail WKIWWSI.

Now, let's say it's illegal to be between 72 and 73 inches in height. That also doesn't seem to serve the cause of justice, and one might expect that would induce a market in shoes with concealed lifters.

How about, then the legality of a non-citizen infant or child brought illegally to the United States? Libertarian arguments about the legitimacy of citizenship aside, let us accept that there are arguments to be made for a sovereign people to exert over control over their citizen's public and private property through immigration policy. Now, if the law was enforced quickly and the child was returned from whence it came, it would be back, more-or-less in its prior state with whatever disruption the travel has imposed upon it. That may not be kind, but its life might have been little impacted in comparison to a clone that had never made the trip in the first place. The point of this argument is not about the cruelty of some perfectly implemented zero immigration policy: it's the justice of the slipshod enforcement of an immigration and guest worker policy that provides incentives for people to work outside that system.

By refusing to establish and enforce policies that encourage participation in the legal immigration system, the US Federal Government has invited a vast number of immigrants to be here illegally. Undocumented doesn't make a lick of sense, since many of them absolutely are documented with driver's licenses, registration with DACA, high-school and college diplomas and the like. And, by the willful refusal to establish and enforce reasonable policies over the years, the USG has created a moral condition that enforcement of the law via deportation renders the law unjust for a large swath of people who have really known no other life than the one here, or who have been here so long that they have become more-or-less cut off from their lives in a previous country.

Not only is the moral hazard pernicious, it renders the rule of law a contemptible artifact and undermines the foundations of our republic. Just as slavery and Jim Crow laws eroded and debased our founding principles, so too does a wink-wink, nudge-nudge enforcement of immigration laws. You cannot have equal protection for all people under just laws if the laws don't actually mean anything. Similarly, you can't have just laws if they're not just.

Now, a big part of the issue is that most the congress don't care about any of this. Their main objective is to raise funds so they can get on committees and pass laws that spend tax dollars and debt accrual on pet projects and constituents. If they were serious, they could write out a solution in a page or two of Simple English. Key components would include:
  • Clarification that recent and further illegal immigration will not be tolerated
  • People here illegally for more than some number of years will be given permission to stay (work permit), but put at the back of the queue for green card and citizenship
  • Provide a working E-verify system and punishment for people who hire illegal immigrants outside E-verify*
Where the cut-off for stay or go is negotiable but it's before yesterday and after twenty years ago. As for "chain-migration", the notion that just because one person manages to get in that a whole and ill-defined group of people should just magically be privileged to cut the line in front others is grossly unfair. Extended family can get in the line like everyone else and take advantage of the "resident privilege" that their States-side relatives extend to them just by being here. Or, if people want to do the chain-migration thing as part of policy, then admission should be based on the evaluation of the entire group to be let in and not on some random walk based upon who is related and happens to show up knocking on the door.

Border enforcement is important, but it should largely be aligned with drug interdiction activities. Wacky drug policy which makes drug interdiction policies necessary is a discussion for another time.

Leaving immigration policy poorly conceived, implemented, and enforced is not only immoral and unjust, it erodes the rule of law and the principles upon which the United States are founded. The hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle is rank, and the longer congress leaves this unresolved, it merely proves how unserious they are about creating a more perfect Union.

* Immigration is the purview of the USG, so if a legal status is required for work and benefits, then it needs to have some reliable means for establishing the validity of that status. E-verify used here is simply that means, and not necessarily some pre-conceived specification, design, or implementation.

19 October 2017

Guaranteed predictions and what's illin' "the press"


  1. POTUS DJT will say something not particularly germane to the running of the Executive branch, but whack, provocative, insane, whatever.
  2. It will get play on social media.
  3. The mainstream media (MSM) will cover it ad nauseum as if it's real "news".
  4. Faith in MSM will continue to erode.
That's probably not going too far out on the limb.

MSM is perhaps too broad a category, and there is plenty of good mainstream reporting, but as it's distilled by "headline news" on TV, cable, Internet, etc., it's primarily echoing what's already reverberating on social media or relaying reportage by some local source, which may or may not be of the highest quality. When these converge, you can get nonsense amplified up to 11.

Why do they do it? Um... because it goes up to 11. The real answer is because they (feel they) don't have a choice. If CNN is running it, then Fox and MSNBC have to counter, because if they don't then people might go watch CNN. You can add whatever network or outlet and permute who's doing what. It doesn't matter. They're all doing the same thing, but adding their spin to appeal to their "base".

The biggest problems of this approach are the incentives for intellectual and ethical sloppiness created by the need to be "me too" and the danger of giving an imprimatur of truth or accuracy to a false, misleading, or poorly reasoned narrative (cf. the James Damore kerfuffle). Moreover, histrionics about what Trump might have said to a grieving widow or how he said it takes time and attention from much more important stuff, like what's going on with, say HHS? What is going on with HHS? Who in the hell knows, because you're not going to stumble upon it because there is some interview with someone whose opinion is particularly germane to the etiquette of Presidential condolence speech on followed by some interviews of people protesting, then commentary by some panel of experts, to be summarized later by one of the marquee anchors managing a studied look of grim concern. You might get the occasional "holes in staffing" report about some agency (especially State), but it's often dismissed as incompetence. What if that's the plan? Does everyone really think that Mike Pence is giving Trump the gaga eyes because he's effectively pushing through conservative reforms where the President has purview: the Executive branch of government. I'm sure those reforms are being covered somewhere...

11 September 2017

Disasters, natural or self-imposed, do not help the economy

So, one of the big ideas that's completely wrong is that disasters like Hurricane Irma or WWII, or, forsooth! Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria/Yemen/Libya are good for the economy. Of course, they're good for sectors of the economy. But, rebuilding a house is not the same as building a new school. Supplying bombs to kill enemies is not the same as supplying scholarships for people to study how to keep people alive after clashes with cancer. None of this crap is any good most people. It's always better to invest than rebuild or destroy.